MANZ (Medal Art New Zealand) aims to nurture the medal art form within the contemporary art practice in New Zealand. Exhibitions are held annually in New Zealand and members also participate in bi-annual exhibitions held in international locations by the Federation International de la Medaille (FIDEM), the international member based group for medal makers.
“These medals are not to be found on the chests of heroes or in athletes’ lockers. They are the contemporary expression of a much older tradition of medals as works of art” – British Art Medal Society website.
The tradition of medals dates back to the Italian Renaissance. Today medals are an artistic expression in their own right, known as ‘art medals’. This term also refers to the larger medallion form (sometimes known as table medals or plaques if one-sided), and ‘object medals’ (which include a third dimension). Medal Art continues to be practised in many countries all around the world with technological advances have influencing both methods and concepts.
The New Zealand Medallion Group was formed in 1989 through the energies of Betty Beadle and Marian Fountain. It was their belief that medal art should be made, celebrated and championed in this country after the wonderful work of Betty’s late husband Professor Paul Beadle, a lecturer at Elam school of Fine Arts in Auckland who had gained an international reputation in this field.
Marian and Betty invited artists Marté Szirmay, Christine Massey, Wallace Sutherland, and Terry Stringer to join them in making and promoting the art form. This original group was called the ‘New Zealand Contemporary Medallion Group’ (NZCMG) later dropping ‘contemporary’. In 2004, the group changed their name to Medal Art New Zealand (MANZ) to better reflect the diverse range of art medal practice within the group.
In May 1989 at Star Art Gallery in Karangahape Road, Auckland, the group had its first exhibition. It featured the work of thirty artists as well as a survey of thirty years of the work of Paul Beadle. The invited artists were from all disciplines, so this was a truly exploratory exhibition revelling in the different approaches and influences that such a variety of artists bring. Over some twenty five years the group has continued to grow, evolve and exhibit.
A medal (a generic term for medallions and plaques) is a small sculpture with definite obverse and reverse faces. ‘Object medals’ investigate a third dimension and became very popular in the 60’s, particularly in France.
Each ‘face’ can be used to explore different aspects of an idea. The illusion of space is rendered through bas-relief and the play of light on the surface. Even the rim face of the medal can be incorporated. In addition text and image must be cohesive within the design.
These days a large variety of geometric shapes are acceptable forms for art medals but the use or reference to the circle continues to be the most accepted or preferred. Traditionally, medals must be produced as editions and made of permanent materials such as bronze, silver or gold but other materials may be used and these are quite varied, particularly with technological advances; glass and porcelain for instance. The main requirement is that they are durable.
Edition sizes vary according to the methods of production, and scale ranges from very small and intimate works to those as wide as 150mm and as heavy as 2kg. The requirement is that it fits comfortably in your hand.