March 16 – April 27 2024

Opening reception in the presence of Melanie Georgacopoulos & Brooke Marks-Swanson

To see the jewelry collections, click on  –  PERLE/PEARL

Montréal, March 10,  2024 – PERLE / PEARL is a traveling exhibition, initiated by a group of artists who met through their teaching at the Central Martins BA Jewelery Design Course : Caroline Broadhead, Lin Cheung, Melanie Georgacopoulos, Maria Militsi and France Wadsworth Jones. With a practice in varied artistic fields, tackling different subjects, they all share a mutual fascination for pearls.

On a proposal from the collective, the host gallery could invite five artists of its choice to enrich the points of view on the pearl. The invitation was sent to Helen Britton, Monika Brugger, Ambroise Degenève, Brooke Marks-Swanson and Tehri Tolvanen who all responded enthusiastically.

A coveted object of desire, the pearl has been an important indicator of value over time in many cultures. Full of myths, symbolism, and preconceptions, the pearl is at once a natural material, a status symbol, a fashion statement, a holder of feeling, memory, and much more. Fascinated by the mystery of their formation, cultivated rather than exploited, pearls retain a lasting appeal spanning times and cultures. The pearl seems timeless.

More specifically, the pearl necklace is perhaps one of the most widely recognized forms of jewellery, an item that Lin Cheung is particularly drawn to. The suggestion that a pearl necklace’s universal appeal is due to the fact it is considered inoffensive, feminine, and proper is both attractive and conflicting to Cheung; prompting her to explore the material and language of pearls in ways that offer a freer sense of adornment. Underpinned by a detailed knowledge of materials and processes, Cheung’s distinctive approach to making offers a witty and poignant response to the human condition, present in her flawlessly crafted chain, Pearl Chain – Blush.


Humour is present in Frances Wadsworth Jones’ work which takes tradition and uses it to play with expectations. Her pierced pearls and reframing of pearls as contemporary portraits completely flip the pearls conservative reputation on its head. She finds herself continually coming back to them, partly drawn to their beauty but also to the way in which their beauty is so loaded. Frances describes pearls as coming with such a strong and implicit set of associations that she finds impossible not to engage with, if not to completely disrupt.

The idea of disruption is also present in the work of Melanie Georgacopoulos whose entire practice has been dedicated to modernizing pearl and more recently mother of pearl jewellery. In her work, the paradoxical, intriguing nature of pearls and mother of pearl is at the core of every piece, whilst the aesthetic remains simple, structure and timeless. She continually strives to challenge the existing preconceptions of these organic materials and that of traditional jewellery design itself. She views pearls as she would any other material and her fearless approach often yields surprising results, that are often as much miniature sculptures as they are wearable items of jewellery.

Similarly Caroline Broadhead is not confined by the physical scale or wearability of jewellery, although the concept of jewellery has been a consistent element spanning her more than fifty-year career. Her recent works have confronted the image of a pearl, created by a meticulous configuration of tiny glass beads where small individual units are brought together to make a larger whole representing a sort of unity and teamwork. Broadhead is attracted to the idea of how one thing or material can closely reference another. In Frilly Pearl Necklace glass beads serve to portray another sort of bead with a different sense of value and tradition.


In a very different way Maria Militsi also brings different objects, materials, and ideas into close relationships to form new meanings. Her work employs the potential of objects as echoes of experience, as fragments of memory and as markers of loss. By using found items, it is the objects themselves that determine Militsi’s choice of inspiration. Be this found images of unknown sitters wearing pearl necklaces, mundane and/or damaged jewellery recovered from the streets of London, used empty pearl cases sourced from online auctions, leftovers from house clearances, defunct toys, etc; it is these chance encounters that Militsi uses as a point of departure to embellish, tease and evoke curiosity with the addition of pearls as a universal symbol of value and collective memory.

Helen Britton uses rarely pearls in her work. Some Broome pearls, natural, singular, irreplicable, in the draw, were waiting for this invite to create a little group of pieces. As little luminous clouds drifting in her memory over an industrial desert, these pearls are floating unperturbed above a scene of fascinating recklessness.

In the work of Brooke Marks-Swanson, repetition and tactility remain at the forefront of reflection during production. Interested in twisted silver wire, soldered with fine gold, she continues her reflection on connection, repetition, time, and patience. The twisted wire becomes spirals, formed slowly from the inside out, reinforced by gold solders, like the ancestral filigree technique. The pearl insertions add delicious light and lightness to her creations.


For Terhi Tolvanen, pearls are too perfect. Her goal? break this perfection. She therefore decides to facet, to cut these pearls. To her surprise, the inner shine of the pearls remains inside. The faceting changes color depending on the quality of the pearls, from lighter to darker colors. These discoveries allow her to work on the process of transforming a piece of jewelry. For example, the metamorphosis of a flower not yet in full bloom until the moment it is finished, the flower is no more, only little remains before it turns into fruit, can -be. Creating a composition with dark and white pearls is like working with light and shadow, a feeling of drawing with the material.

For the French jeweler, Ambroise Degenève, the pearl is treated like a stone. He facets the pearl to reveal its different colors, sometimes even down to the nucleus which was sown in the oyster. Unlike his previous creations, which consisted of making the pearls reappear after having been completely covered with copper by the electroforming technique, here he highlights the pearl, but once again with an unexpected way.

The fly is always present in Monika Brugger’s creations created for this exhibition. She always plays with words – pearls in French can be natural, plastic, glass, porcelain – the same word to mean pearl. The distinction exists in English, pearls or beads, Monika plays with this meaning with her porcelain beads/pearls. And the fly, almost ridiculously precious, appears on some pearls! Vanity? A little frivolous!

The strength of these ten international creators lies in the diversity of ideas and approaches on the same subject. Their work explores new and innovative ways of working with the pearl, how it can be represented, whether through the manipulation of the material itself, the form it might take, referencing its place in cultural history or the discovery of narrative and imaginative ideas, ways to reassess one’s place at the heart of the jewelry value system. Their investigations question the traditional uses of pearls and place them in a contemporary, surprising, humorous or ironic context.

The exhibition continues until April 27, 2024.

For more information :

Noel Guyomarc’h [email protected]

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