Kevin Coates: A Hidden Alchemy, Goldsmithing: Jewels and Table-pieces

Kevin Coates: A Hidden Alchemy, Goldsmithing: Jewels and Table-pieces


Kevin Coates, Ovid Metamorphoses, 1995
loving cup, silver, parcel-gilt, part patinated 10 in. high.
Photo/Ian Haigh

By Elizabeth Goring, Helen Clifford, Nel Romano, Francoise Carli, Kevin Coates
Arnoldsche Art Publishers
Stuttgart, Germany

The British goldsmith Kevin Coates is acclaimed for his jewelry, table sculpture and presentation works, such as Ovid Metamorphoses, 1995, distinguished by their technical virtuosity, wide-ranging cultural references and richness of materials. In their mysteriousness and preciosity, they remind some viewers of objects displayed in a Renaissance cabinet of curiosities. Though Coates has been creating jewelry since the 1970s, a revolutionary
period in art jewelry throughout the world, the look of his work-figurative, complex and colorful-offers a sharp contrast to that of the many contemporaries who may be more inclined to the abstract, simple and unadorned.

Something of a precious object itself, with its heavy glossy pages, this monograph celebrates Coates's entire oeuvre, some 425 pieces from 1973 to the present. There are chapters on, among other topics, his jewelry-often rings or pins with stands or wall mounts created to display them when not on
a wearer-the Mozart pieces, a series of "birthday jewels" created for his wife, and "fragments," works built around an exquisite shard.

In her essay, the jewelry historian Elizabeth Goring stresses Coates's poetic aspect. "Although he works in physical isolation," she writes, "his creativity is driven not by introspection but by a passion to communicate to others his sense of delighted wonder at the world and its mysteries, using all possible means and materials at his disposal." In her text, the decorative arts scholar Helen Clifford marvels at Coates as a "practitioner who embraces theory, an academic who gets his hands dirty at the workbench. . . . He unites the increasingly divided worlds of science and art, to create a unified world appealing to the logic of the mathematician and to the emotions of the artist." And, she continues, "He conjures figures from wax, casts gold, sil­ver, and bronze carves gems, cuts marble, slices slate, works horn, patinates and polishes, oxidizes and gilds. He does not design for others to make."

With its illustrated catalogue raisonné, this elegant volume is a definitive reference on a singular artist.