Philip Noakes

Philip Noakes' new works have an extraordinary presence. Their exquisite forms, wrought from silver and copper — in groupings or proudly independent — rise elegantly from their tapered bases. Together they create a magical landscape of elegant curving vessels that capture light and set it dancing and flickering across their meticulously worked surfaces. A companion work counterbalances each arching curve and surface textures ripple over each form to create a harmonious interplay of connection.

Noakes is widely recognised as one of Australia’s outstanding contemporary metalsmiths who, over many decades, has earned a well-deserved reputation as a consummate craftsman and a highly original and innovative artist within the expanded world of metal craft. As a student, he undertook the technically demanding four-year full-time Diploma in the Design and Craftsmanship of Silversmithing at Sir John Cass College of Art London in 1972, and since then, he has taken opportunities as they arose and initiated them when they didn’t. His practice has been continuously reflexive to the changing environment in which he finds himself.

Arriving in Australia in 1975, he soon established himself as one of Australia’s leading contemporary jewellers, based firstly in Perth, then Sydney, and over the last decades in Perth once again. However, silversmithing remained a passion, and in 2016 he worked at The Goldsmith’s Centre, London, to learn new techniques and build a skill base around the use of new equipment. Armed with this arsenal of possibilities, he began to work in earnest. He began with copper maquettes to test ideas, then experimented with variations on classic forms before trialing how surface textures could play across those forms.

This miraculous process conjured up very beautiful objects. The hollow forms were transformed into closed containers, centre-pieces seemed to float, all surfaces were activated by elaborate hammered textures and those surfaces were further enlivened through the use of heat treatments offering a rich palette of colour.

Stratum V is raised from a flat disk of silver and transformed into an elegant form. It seems to have grown and morphed into shape under Noakes’s patient hammering. From its delicate base, it rises to full height with astonishing confidence.  The hammer has left a swirling cascade of impressions to create a rhythmic pulse that draws our eyes around and along its bright silver surface.  At the rim, one thumbmark of gold commands our attention and allows a moment of rest before, once again, our focus shifts to the exquisite dance of the hammer.

That same delicate thumbprint links this work to the Diagonal Feathers group. A maker’s mark, a record of contact with the object, focuses on our interrogation of its form and its subtle textured surface.  While they retain a nod to functionality — these vessels are a receptacle and could be used for various purposes — their confident presence, reinforced by the stamp of approval, giving credibility to their status as ”object without portfolio”. They stand out!

Eclipse is a pair of disks that almost align like transient planets. One full and glowing, the other shrouded in the faltering shadow of an unseen presence. Noakes is intrigued by light and how it can be manipulated in its movement around his forms. It begins with hammering — it all begins with hammering — as he gradually raises the vessels, recording that process in a tracery of marks left on the surface. This creates a trap that catches the light, directs it onto the next, creating a cascade that moves us on, revealing both the form and the intricacy of each inflection. Together these objects speak eloquently of their companionship while asserting their place within our expanded universe of objects.

Philip Noakes’ dedication to his craft has earned him much deserved renown, including that most prestigious accolade, Fellow of the Institute of Professional Goldsmiths, United Kingdom, conferred in 2016. This new body of work consolidates his reputation as a master craftsman, an artisan who is always pushing at the boundaries of his practice to create works of profound beauty.

EXHIBTION
Philip Noakes: Sculptural Silver
20 February – 14 March 2021
Australian Galleries, Sydney

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