Wednesday, July 15, 2015


In the last few years of his life, Ivaan had been planning a book of photographs of his best metal art, which he planned to entitle 30 Pieces of Silver.  If you're not up on your Bible studies, Judas is said to have betrayed Jesus for "thirty pieces of silver".   Perhaps for Ivaan it was just a catchy title, but it's also possible that Ivaan wondered if those pieces of silver were worth the betrayal.  More than likely, the reference was to silver coins, but it got Ivaan speculating:  if he had to pick 30 pieces of silver to best represent his life's work, which would he choose?

We often discussed whether he literally meant silver pieces, or whether silver-coloured pieces also counted.  And since many of the pieces he made in gold were also made in silver,  would photographs of gold count?  If so, would they have to be white gold?  Even more complicated was whether the pieces had to have been photographed by him.   Don't get me bleating on about the difficulty of photographing jewellery well.  Ivaan's pieces didn't have a "good side" and a reverse side.  They were generally beautiful from every angle, so a photograph highlighting one feature naturally excluded another.  Add that to the fact that, compared to Ivaan, I am a highly substandard photographer. Yet, when I think of all the weddings at which Ivaan has been the photographer, but the bulk of the photographs were actually taken by me, I begin to think 'slow-witted' is another adjective that might apply to me. Writing this, the wedding of Ivaan's niece Martha suddenly springs to mind. A couple of days after the wedding, the Mother of the Bride was looking at the photographs, exclaiming what a wonderful photographer her brother Ivaan was, oblivious to the fact that Ivaan was actually in the photos she was admiring.

But I digress.

Many of Ivaan's most beautiful pieces of metal art are out there in the world without ever having been photographed.  Even among the pieces that he did photograph,  the piece of jewellery might have been just one element in a complex photograph.

Early in the morning on December 2nd, 2008, while we waited outside the doors of the operating room for the first of Ivaan's two scheduled brain surgeries, talking quietly to each other, Ivaan said, "Promise me you'll do 30 Pieces of Silver".  I knew what he meant: the chances were about fifty-fifty that he wouldn't be coming home at all.  I tried to assure him that we'd have plenty of time to work on it together during the year of post-surgical recovery he'd need.  Ivaan insisted: "Promise me you'll do 30 Pieces of Silver".  It was painful for him to speak.  For the previous year, almost all his interactions with the outside world were filtered through me, as his speech became so laboured, friends were unable to understand him.  He'd speak to them, they'd look at me in discomfort, and I'd provide the English to English translation. In the few minutes we had left together, I didn't want to waste time arguing about semantics, so I promised.

To date, I haven't kept my promise.  I've done a million other things I promised to do, and even a few things I didn't promise but he'd have been thrilled about: starting this blog, opening ATELIER IVAAN, helping to arrange the acquisition of his collections of photographs by Ryerson University, the City of Toronto, and the University of Regina, contacting people he'd lost touch with, making rings for weddings he'd have loved to attend, donating bronzes to the Cathedral in his name, but 30 Pieces of Silver has been on my to-do list for six and a half years.

Starting now (and it's midnight on July 15, 2015), I'm selecting 30 Pieces of Silver.  It will be a very subjective collection, but each one will have a special significance, which I'll tell you about.  Here's the first one:
First, a disclaimer: this photograph was taken by me.  It's sterling silver, and I call this the Charlie Ring. because a young woman named Charlie Hill has one.  Ivaan made it as part of his Egyptian collection for the Art Gallery of Ontario in 1980.  What's unusual about it is that the band wraps around the beaded oval from outside to inside on one side and from inside to outside on the other. Symmetry was anathema to Ivaan.  Every one of those little beads was applied by hand on the wax original.   It's an excellent ring, but apart from his charateristic beadwork, people rarely recognize this as an Ivaan ring. Now you know.

No comments:

Post a Comment