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A number of objects with special powers will be unleashed at Christchurch Art Gallery next week with the opening of the extraordinary Talisman.

Talismans are objects believed to possess supernatural or magical powers, and are found in cultures throughout the world.

Dating back to prehistoric times, they were originally created to assist in the performance of religious or magical initiation ceremonies. The earliest items were circular and engraved with astrological figures or magical formulae. Talismans are made of many different materials including metal, bone, stone, and parchment.

‘The exhibition focuses on the contribution of local artists to the understanding of the talisman’, says Gallery Director Jenny Harper. ’Twelve contemporary New Zealand jewellery artists have made new work responding to the enduring power of the talisman. The works explore rituals, superstition, and transformations that are often lost or forgotten in secular society.’

The twelve works are accompanied by a selection of rare objects and taonga from the Canterbury Museum’s oceanic collection.

’These objects highlight an exchange across times and cultures and reinforce the connections between jewellery and the body, science, magic and nature’ says Jenny.

This will be the second time an exhibition at the Gallery has featured contemporary responses to ancient art. In 2007, Of Deities or Mortals revealed the artistic reaction of eight New Zealand artists to objects from the University of Canterbury's James Logie Memorial Collection. The modern interpretations were displayed alongside the original ancient treasures to create interesting and unexpected juxtapositions of old and new.

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Talisman lays down a similar challenge for the contemporary artists involved. Like the best of sculptural practice the works reveal something of the artist, while allowing the interaction between the maker and the wearer or observer to remain open.

The twelve contemporary jewellers included in Talisman include Barry Clarke, Peter Deckers, Julia de Ville, Jane Dodd, John Edgar, Jason Hall, Rangi Kipa, Craig McIntosh, Koji Miyazaki, Frances Stachl, Lisa Walker and Anna Ward.

Talisman is sponsored by Creative New Zealand and is on display at Christchurch Art Gallery Te Puna o Waiwhetu from 5 December 2009 until 14 February 2010

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