2005 "Tokens or Treasure - an artists perspective"


INTENTION For me, making sculpture includes making medals and serves as a system of remembering-a token to memory if you like. My medals are the result of making a series of connected thoughts, ideas or concepts into a series of potentially treasured objects: for these ideas to be transferred from my mind to the minds of others.

The intention is that the works might communicate something to someone. It is not necessary that, what is communicated is the idea that has driven the piece into being. For example "Reverse" 4 which was bought in 1996 from the Royal Academy summer show was made to highlight the fact that with art medals, the obverse might simply be the side you are looking at. However, when a woman bought this piece from the show for her prospective husband as a wedding gift, she explained that he had chosen it as "reverse" meant the reverse of loneliness so symbolising the togetherness of marriage! Wonderful!

So, I am driven to make medals to contain or hold ideas. What is shown visually or pictorially on the medal, I refer to as the content, therefore the driving force is the content. A sort of untangling goes on in the creating of these personal works where I try and establish some personal truths. To record this journey I try to keep a copy of all the works I make along with an archive of the images. Examples are shown(Archive images 5,6). These copies have become a personal collection of artist's proofs, if you like. Proof of my journey: my treasure trove!

Topographically speaking container (Image of can 7) may become the content (sqashed can 8). The content is inherent in the form. When my work is made within the constraints of a medal it becomes understood and seen in that context.
The works are often process led in this way. I often introduce narrative. The intention is to explore the medal as sculpture using both the form and content to create a dialogue between the two sides. (Heads and Tails, obv & rev) 9,10

I also treasure many of those sketches for works that did not come to fruition. Successful pieces feed the spirit, but the ideas for pieces that never got made have their own allure. The image and feel of the piece in the imagination is flawless and uncompromised. The practicalities involved in the process of making have not touched the imaginary medal. No undercuts to be considered, no porosity problems in the casting. Skulking in the sketch book It remains a perfect vision.

11 SCULPTURE/MEDAL AS DONATION/ GIFT In my mind Museums treasure their collections. The dream of having my work treasured is always close to the surface. While purchases are preferable if the case is made for a donation or the mood takes then I am happy to donate.

In the case of "Madonna of the Mints" 12 -the mood took! I felt that the work that Henry had put into my show merited a gift to the Museum. It is elecroformed copper, one sided, approx 7" in diameter. It was made during my employment as engraver at the Royal Mint around 1990-92

"Decoration of the Rim" 13,14 is on loan to the V&A showing in the Gilbert Bayes Sculpture Gallery. Renewable every three years the loan system introduces a flexibility, which allows for the showing of perhaps challenging works by the museums who all have limited funds to deal with. I am currently working on a large version of this. (Four Leaf Clover) 15

Sometimes institutions donate to each other. In the case of their Mileneum Medal All Souls deposited copies with the BM, the Ashmolean and the Queen Mother. I think the Royal Family count as an institution.

My most recent donation has been to the Freud Museum where I am currently Artist in Residence. Annabel 16. This drawing is part of a triptych, the second which I have and the third (Annabel drawing) 17, which has been purchased by the Prints and Drawings dept of the BM.

Due to their potential in terms of duplication medals and plaques can make appropriate gifts. One example of a commissioned gift medal is the Jan Lis medal18 made in 1989 for his relatives and freinds.

A second example is the Getty Christmas medal made as an edition of 140 as a Christmas gift for their staff in 2002. It was struck in a copper alloy by the Bigbury Mint with two copies struck in silver 19, one for the Getty's themselves and one for my treasure trove.

Another aspect of the medal as "gift" might easily be in the handling experience. I do not see my medals as separate from my sculpture. Outside the interactive, art is traditionally not intended for handling. Even within the potentially tactile medium of sculpture it is not generally acceptable to touch, to disturb the finish.

With medals however, there is in contrast an intention on the part of the artist for the works to be handled. I feel that this is the specific gift of the medal. It is only a great pity that due to its scale and the security risks that pocket sized works pose, we have to cage up our medals for viewing behind locked glass, which takes away from their intended function. After the Paris Mint Fidem exhibition perhaps this is becoming more a thing of the past. It did strike me (to coin a term) that with all the problems with the organisation and the display it went almost unnoticed that convention was flouted and that many pieces were explosed to be seen unhindered and potentially handled.
To illustrate this point I have made a medal called "The Rose" (obverse) 20
"The Rose"(reverse) 21-26 "In two pieces that fit together this medal might surprise one as it falls apart in the hand. It causes one to gasp! Ow! 27- we say when pricked by the thorn of the rose we want desperately to touch. This elicited emotion adds another dimension to the medal experience. The uncomfortable reaction may be more than was expected and perhaps not desirable. But behind glass the medals evoke much the same frustrated reaction with our unrequited desire to handle." (show 20 obverse again)

MEDAL/SCULPTURE AS TOKEN OF EXCHANGE 28 When I am commissioned to make a medal I do it often in exchange for tokens of my own. In contrast to a larger piece in the round, medals take an inordinate amount of time and trouble and the payment is rarely commensurate for the effort involved.

If something captures my imagination it may count more for accepting a commission, like, who will I be dealing with? what will they talk about etc? Curiosity is the currency.

Bartering has proved to be a successful tool or me. As a student in Rome, I made a bust for the local bar owner in exchange for free tea and coffee for the duration of the project, which it being my first bust lasted for nearly two years. Another was a plaque of a friends son in exchange for a few months of hot suppers during lean times. (Felix) 29

When I do a portrait often of a friend or of someone I would like to get to know better, the sitting is in exchange for tuition Imelda30 or I might give a clay copy of the bust. Deirdre 31

I feel that Bams fits into the category of "medal as token of exchange". From my perspective as an artist, it comes over as a well thought out and fair system. While the cost of the medal is lower than we might expect to sell at normally, we would normally never sell 40 medals by private means! We would also never get to meet curators and directors first hand. Bams has certainly been the glue that has kept everything and everyone together making sense out of making medals.

ACTION 32 Taking the theme of the conference "Medal as Gift" the first thing that sprang to mind were the tokens made as Gifts ranging from quick commemoratives to football tokens 33 given away with petrol purchases or shopping.

Unlike tokens my hope is that my work might be valued by someone or somewhere, as something worthwhile and worth keeping. Pieces collected for public or private collections means to me that they have taken on a life of their own and have fulfilled their intentions.

On that note I have enlisted 5 recipients to demonstrate the other side of volunteering. Can I also have any 5 volunteers. The 5 enlisted are Philip, Mark, Wendy, Henry and Luke can you join the volunteers. Philip a gift for the BM. Wendy for the V&A. Henry for the Ashmolean, Luke for the National Gallery and Mark for which ever Museum might be left for you to go!

On the screen you see my Conference Gift Medal 34 made as an edition of 10 in stoneware clay. I would like to give one each to each of my voluntary volunteers and also my enlistees. On the obverse you will see the fragmented portrait of Sir Paul Getty, representing philanthropy, one of Britains greatest. On the reverse (Conf. Gift Medal- rev) 35 it reads Man.U.from me Give out medals

For our Bams Conference we are in Manchester this year. Manchester is arguably most famous for its football whose most famous team is often abbreviated to Man.U. In two weeks time Man.U will take part in the FA cup final against Arsenal. The FA cup is considered to be a great English foot-balling treasure.
In paying homage to that occasion alongside our own occasion, the medal carries a two-fold message. You may read this as Manchester. You from me and may treasure it as a gift to remember the conference by.

© Jane McAdam Freud


Most of the images listed below can be found on my website

Reverse 4
Archive images 5,6
Standing Can 7
Suashed Can 8
Heads and Tails (obv) 9
Heads and Tails (rev) 10
Sculpture/medal as donation/ gift 11
Madonna 12
Dec of Rim 13,14
Four Leaf Clover 15
Annabel 16
Annabel 17
Jan Lis medal 18
Getty Christmas medal (sil) 19
The Rose (obverse) 20
The Rose (rev) 21-26
Ow! Chris turning medal 27
The Rose (obv) 20
Subtitle: medal/sculpture as token 28
Felix 29
Imelda 30
Deirdre 31
Subtitle: Action 32
football tokens 33
Conference Gift Medal 34
Conference Gift Medal rev 35