I am a great admirer of Wendy Ramshaw's work and this exhibition at Somerset House, showing key pieces from the past 50 years of her career, is well worth a visit. It includes her early work making paper jewellery in the 1960s, examples of her ring towers, abstract brooches and necklaces, some of her pieces for Picasso’s women, and models and photographs of her gates, as well as the fascinating ‘Room of dreams’.
I went expecting to see beautiful jewellery and metalwork and ended up being beguiled by her inventiveness in linking jewellery to folklore, fairy tales and paintings. Some of her work represents characters from fairy tales such as the ‘Necklace for the miller’s daughter’ comprising neck rings bound with spun gold embroidery thread, tangling them inextricably together. Other pieces link to paintings, such as the ‘Ornaments for the sleeping gypsy by Henri Rousseau’. One of these necklaces includes recycled ivory claws, and taxidermists lion’s eyes, just the sort of necklace the sleeping gypsy might possess and very reminiscent of Rousseau’s painting. Keys are another theme, with Alice’s tiny key to open the doors in Wonderland and the necklace of keys for Bluebeard’s wife. The seven keys to the cabinet were intricately worked and represented different phases of Wendy Ramshaw’s jewellery. I would be interested to see if they really do open the drawers to the cabinet and what secrets the drawers contain.
I came away amazed by the amount and inventiveness of Wendy Ramshaw’s work. She has a unique and distinctive style but has continued to develop her ideas and push her materials to achieve new effects - a wonderful body of work.