Contemporary Camouflage is Rebecca Hannon’s latest project, one she has developed during two months residency at Studio Rian de Jong, in Amsterdam. Interested in the concepts of concealing and revealing, which stem from the notion of camouflage, the artist presents a series of brooches and necklaces, the result of a paradoxical exploration in the field of contemporary jewellery.
Camouflage means “to blend into”, to conceal oneself in one’s surroundings so as to protect oneself, to go unnoticed, or to become a predator in order to survive. Coloration is the principal form camouflage takes in nature. Adapted by the military in the 18th century, camouflage, in the form of prints of colours that blend with their surroundings, was widely used for protection and to mislead the enemy, as well as for reconnaissance.
But the most impressive examples, by far, are the WWI warships with their disruptive camouflage, also known as dazzle camouflage. Attributed to Norman Wilkinson, the British marine artist, these paintings, with their complex motifs made up of irregular lines in contrasting colours, create optical illusions that were meant to confuse the enemy.
These warships come close to being works of art, due to the optical effects, falsely modified volumes and overall structure, depth and superimposition effects, and both the harmony and disruptive nature of the colours used. One is reminded of Constructivism, Futurism or Cubism. To conceal or reveal: such is the paradox of this subterfuge!
According to Rebecca Hannon, the act of wearing jewellery leads to this same idea. The person who wears a wedding ring or religious pendant or medal reveals only a very small part of herself. These objects are symbols of belonging, of status and identity; their references are obvious. However, in wearing contemporary jewellery, one displays or reveals oneself, with a form of communication inevitably occurring. The spectator questions the work, and the wearer’s choice. In contemporary jewellery, camouflage is rare.
Rebecca Hannon’s previous collections were a response to research she conducted in shape, size and colour—the latter an indispensable ingredient—in relation to the body. She meticulously examines and studies each material she chooses to work with, in order to sharpen her awareness of the many possibilities it presents. In referring to abstract art, by laser-cutting symbolic minimalist shapes out of coloured laminate, she arranges them ingeniously into simple, spare works of jewellery, the very essence of the source of inspiration. Any visible reference to the natural is eliminated.
In the context of this new exploration, the selection of colours and complex arrangement of laser-cut elements baffle the viewer. At times one colour predominates, yet the end result appears to suggest other possibilities, switching from primary to complementary colours. With this cognitive approach, Hannon awakens our senses and perceptions. She suggests one thing that, in the very same instant, becomes something else, comes to life, and takes form, surprising us. Visual perception is a system of identification, which, in the artist’s latest offering, disorients, and is magnified and accentuated when the work is worn.