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DESIGN IMAGES: SEAN O’CONNELL; PORTRAIT: KEZIA LITTLEMORE One such experiment saw O’Connell develop a range of high voltage audio oscillators. It was the origin of his signature spark imaging process. “I was looking for common undercurrents and connecting threads,” he says. “The way electricity moves across boundaries, between objects and within the structure of things.” As such, spark imaging for O’Connell is a means “to see beyond the normal outer surface of things that photography shows, and delve deep into the structure of matter. It’s an energetic perspective of the world.” So while each ring initially appears as merely a product of its form – think stainless steel, silicon nitride, chrome or titanium tubing — on closer reflection the works reveal fascinating kinetic elements that are shown in the photographs. As O’Connell explains: “Spark imaging allowed me to see the crystalline structure of meteoric steel displayed in patterns of electrical discharge, or to find fine flaws and cracks in material too fine to be seen with a magnifying glass, through the persistent arc of sparks along the flaw.” Spark imaging is nearly as old as photography itself, but O’Connell has expanded the possibilities. “The equipment I use, patched together from old Tesla coil circuitry and my own designs, allows a much greater range of materials to be examined,” he says of images created by placing the film on top of a thick copper plate. “The sample is laid directly on top of the film, and an electrode connected on top. Another For the creator of some of Australia’s most electrode connects to the copper plate, and up to 60,000 innovative contemporary jewelry, Sean O’Connell is volts are pulsed through the sample. Sparks move through remarkably off-grid: He works from a repurposed the sample, taking on the form of the internal structure, and shipping container in rural Tasmania, surrounded releasing out across the photographic film and exposing it.” by 350 acres of idyllic bushland. “The movement O’Connell sees himself as a jeweler who merely uses and growth in the natural world reveals connections between material, form and movement in the most efficient and beautiful way,” he explains. O’Connell’s exploration of this relationship is evident in his Spark range of jewelry that combines sophisticated design and unique materials with traditional craftsmanship. O’Connell then photographed electricity surging through his creations, to produce a secondary set of standalone work – Material Studies: Spark, an arresting series of photographs which accompanies the Spark rings. It’s an approach O’Connell began contemplating while completing his doctorate at the Sydney College of the Arts. “My research centered on finding ways to see beyond boundaries we impose between individuals, cultures, objects and ideas. There were several experiments photography as a means of expression. Nonetheless, his next project for 2019 – Matter Reanimated, a collection of images of 100 materials used in daily life – will go even deeper by also engaging auditory senses: “The exhibits will be accompanied by a video stitching together hundreds of still frame spark images, using audio generated by the spark frequencies.” In acknowledging the uniqueness of his work, O’Connell also recognizes the creative values that connect him with a wider community of makers. “There may be no other jewelers who subject their work to highvoltage electricity to make images, but there is a common understanding and appreciation of materials I share with other jewelers, and craftspeople in general,” he says. This appreciation for a material’s fundamental qualities, coupled with his desire to innovate, is ultimately Australian artisan and artist Sean O’Connell trained in which I documented in photography, object design and gold and silversmithing before his PhD what has jolted O’Connell’s work film and sound,” he says. experiments led him to explore the fine art of electricity into a realm of its own. THE JAGUAR 77





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