Daniel Brush Explores the Immateriality of Jewels

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Daniel Brush is the type of artist that lets his work do the speaking. According to him, “Craft skills are a way to speak clearly, through a rhythm or elegance of language,” as he states in the introduction of Daniel Brush: Jewels Sculpture, a new book cataloguing his work. For five decades, Brush’s refined hand has created visual poetry in the form of jewelry and objets de vertu using the finest gems and metals. From a 20-year long rumination on aluminum to a menagerie of jeweled brooches inspired by animal crackers, Jewels Sculpture highlights 150 examples of the artist’s work lensed by Takaaki Matsumoto, accompanied by thoughtful commentary from award-winning jewelry writer and historian Vivienne Becker, and prefaced with a forward by Van Cleef & Arpels’ CEO Nicolas Bos.

Every piece that comes from his studio is made by Brush’s own hand. Spending countless hours devoted to engraving or applying tedious technical work, the artist has honed his skills to best serve the jewels. “Craftsmanship, he believes, is not an end in itself but a conduit of ideas,” Becker writes. The technique should disappear into the ethereal effect and emotion of his work.

Somewhere between sculpture and jewelry, the artist’s creations act as a vehicle for Brush to contemplate philosophy, existentialism, and Asian thought. Whether through treasured gemstones like amber–which holds significance in Indian myth and ritual–or the shape of a circle–a universal symbol of eternity–Brush imbues his creations with a sense of spirituality that borders on talismanic. The physical and visual elements of his jewels that admirers may be drawn to for aesthetic reasons extend beyond and connect to the divine. By transforming the raw materials through his meticulous handiwork, Brush seeks to embody the immateriality of the jewels.

While he has explored this through many of his series, it perhaps comes into the greatest relief through Actresses. The series of 69 steel cuff bangles features a hand-engraved name–Jean Harlow, Hedy Lamarr, and Rita Hayworth, among others–and a sprinkle of diamonds for a refined yet not overly ornamental effect. With this understated approach, Brush takes something as familiar as the Old Hollywood icon, and challenges the preconceptions of glamour. Wanting to highlight the “real Hollywood jewels: the actresses,” the artist stripped away the idea of excess and glitz that usually surrounds such figures and was left with the simple materials of steel and diamonds. For Brush, jewels have never been superficial, and he approaches them as such.

With his impressive oeuvre, Brush has shown that jewels transcend accessory or ornament. They are a medium to connect to dreams and the otherworldly and to inspire fantasy.

Daniel Brush: Jewels Sculpture is now available online and in bookstores.

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