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Thursday, 2 January 2014


Wendy Stefansson. Off-Grid. Silver leaf and ink on birch panel. 2008.

Off-Grid is one piece in a series in which I have been experimenting with silver leaf and its oxidation.

Silver is the most domesticated of metals. It has been used for tea services, gravy boats, candle sticks, and picture frames.  It’s been given as gifts at weddings; and handed down from mother to daughter, grandmother to granddaughter. It’s been used to help us find our own reflections in glass.  It’s been worn as jewellery against our skins.  More intimately still, it’s been shaped into the utensils we hold in our hands and put in our mouths, from which we take and give nourishment.  It is brought out on special occasions – for holidays and parties, for weddings and christenings and funerals – marking our passages around the seasons and through the stages of our lives.

Silver tarnishes easily, and has been laboured over by women to erase these marks of time. Women’s labour creates the fiction of its own effortlessness or even non-existence; of time standing still.  

Silver leaf is traditionally applied in a grid making the most efficient use of this costly medium.  But the grid is a pattern traditionally associated with things male.  In this work I have interrupted the grid, leaving bare wood showing in lines that followed the pattern of the wood grain beneath.  The silver has been torn off in patches, which have then been blackened with ink.  Finally, time has been allowed to create its own organic images and colours in the form of tarnish – bringing reds and greens and blues  and golds together with the original silver.

“Off-grid” is a term used to describe homes that are not plugged into conventional power infrastructures.  Here I am using it not in an environmental sense, but more to suggest alternative sources of human energy.  The female organic shapes here are combined in sometimes unpredictable ways with the male grid suggesting a yin-yang kind of relationship – a way of being which acknowledges and applies the strengths of both genders, of both traditional and new ways of thinking.  A marriage.

March 2008

To see my first silver leaf work, go to my post called "a handmade photo" --

For more thoughts on the yin-hand, click here, or here, or here.

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