public Sam Tho Duong, Collection Art Gallery of South Australia. Gift of Truus and Joost Daalder through the Art Gallery of South Australia Foundation 2017. On display, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide. In 1981, when Sam Tho Duong was a teenager, his family fled his home town of Bien Hoa in Vietnam and escaped by boat from the communist regime. His two eldest brothers went to the US but the five younger children, including Duong, ended up in Germany. Perhaps auspiciously, they settled in Pforzheim, nicknamed the “city of gold” because of its jewellery industry, which dates back to the 1700s.
In a city where pearls, gold and precious stones are ubiquitous, Duong decided to study jewellery and design, and complete a gold- smithing apprenticeship. Since ce then he has worked as a freelance contemporary jeweller. He is well regarded for combining his traaditional training with meticu- lous deftness in technique and an innovative approach to design. He has been awarded one of the most coveted design prizes in international jewellery, the Herbert t Hofmann Prize, and his work k has been collected by instituutions such as the Victoria and Albert Museum in London and d the Museum of Arts and Design in New York. One of his pieces, Frozen, n, is also a recent addition to the Art Gallery of fS South th A Australia collection thanks to the generosity of Adelaide-based donors Truus and Joost Daalder, who overall donated 161 pieces of Australian and international jewellery.
Duong’s Frozen series of neckpieces and brooches from 2011 was inspired by the snowladen branches of bare trees in the middle of a German winter. Speaking of this inspiration, Duong recently said: “My necklaces remind me of nature. If the temperature is well below zero degr degrees Celsius, the bark and ski skin of branches, twigs and fru fruits are covered with beautifu ful ice crystals. I try to transla late this inspiration into my je jewellery.” The Frozen neckpi piece at the Art Gallery of So South Australia features hundre dreds of tiny oval-shaped seed pear pearls which are secured in clusters o of spherical forms by invisible nylon nyl thread on to silver balls to create a sculptural form. At the galler gallery, the curator of European and dA Australian t li d decorative arts, Rebecca Evans, shows me the neckpiece and explains that seed pearls are very small natural pearls that usually measure less than 2mm in diameter and haven’t had enough time in the shell to become bigger. Seed pearls, she says, have a long history in the Western tradition because they were used as a symbol of tears and were often used in mourning jewellery. “This neckpiece pays homage to this European tradition through his bound clusters of sculp- tural seed pearls capturing the fleeting beauty of a European winter,” she says. “You can imagine what impact that scene of snow on a tree would have had on a young Vietnamese migrant moving to Germany as a kid.”
Truus and Joost Daalder bought Frozen in Amsterdam at a jewellery fair run by one of the most important jewellery galleries in the world, Galerie Ra, says Evans. “The interesting thing is that they both saw the piece separately,” she says, “and both agreed separately that it was something that they just had to acquire.”
Evans knew about Frozen while it was owned by the Daalders for a long time before it came into the gallery collection. “Its companion piece is in the Victoria and Albert Museum and it has always been the piece that beckoned me to woo Truus and Joost to think about gifting their collection to the gallery,” she says. “It has always been the star, a work that has made my heart beat the fastest.
“There is something about it that unites for me what contemporary jewellery is all about — traditional metalwork training, the exquisite execution of technique and materials, but also something highly original and innovative in terms of its design. It is a spectacular piece and I think there is nothing quite like it.”
Materials: oxidised silver, pearls, nylon; 43.5cm x 20cm x 3.5cm