X Marks the Spot - Source

Professor Jack Cunningham PhD


Relationships, family and place, are factors of particular significance in the narrative dialogue present in the work of Jack Cunningham. Equally important in the process of communicating his ideas are the materials incorporated, most recently, found objects and ready-mades. Through the process of association and personal viewing methodologies, Cunningham is interested in the dialogue that is consequently established between the maker – the originator of the artifact’s statement, the wearer – the vehicle by which the work is seen, and the viewer – the audience who thereafter engages with the work.

A significant part of Jack’s practice-based PhD, ‘Contemporary European Narrative Jewellery’ interrogated this triangulation through the curatorial process of bringing together key practitioners working in a narrative genre from as many European countries as possible. The object was central to this research connecting historical references with contemporary practice against a backdrop of cultural diversity. This research facilitated the opportunity to place his own work; exclusively projected through the brooch form; within this context and take the position of the reflective practitioner.

His exploration of personal narrative themes motivated by the construct of our relationship with family, place, of recollection and memory, life and death, although non-linear gives a sense of being systematic. The use of an ‘ideas’ sketchbook which takes the form of drawing, text, audio and lens based media is a critical part of Jacks methodology, enabling initial thoughts, experiences and emotional responses to be captured as they occur. The sketchbook becomes an aide-memoir in this process, a means to record without judgement; the collection of fragments may seem quite tangential, but when brought into line with his own subjectivity, have personal resonance and appropriateness in their terms of reference.


'There are moments of convergence where divergent interrelated factors, activities and considerations are brought together. It may take weeks of subtle iterations before ideas become fully formed; this activity exists within the intangible sphere of the creative process'

Professor Jack Cunningham PhD

Jack Cunningham is an academic, curator and contemporary studio jeweller whose particular interest is narrative jewellery. He studied at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art; Dundee in the mid 70’s and completed a practice-based PhD at the Glasgow School of Art in 2007. His Doctoral work researched the synergy between ethnographic factors and the creative outcomes of contemporary narrative jewellers. He investigated the significance and influence of environment on the creative individual and how these factors impact on the creative process. Dr Cunningham taught for many years at Glasgow School of Art and was Head of Department from 2005 until 2008. He is currently Professor and Head of the School of Jewellery at Birmingham City University. His work which has been exhibited nationally and internationally has received numerous awards and is represented in many public collections.

Selected exhibitions

To Strangers: Professor Jack Cunningham & Professor Teng Fei, Star Space Gallery, AIVA, Shanghai, China 2009; Contemporary Silversmithing, Aaron Faber Gallery, New York, NY, USA 2009; Jack Cunningham – End of The Line (solo) Roger Billcliffe Gallery, Glasgow, Arai Atelier Gallery, Tokyo, Hélène Porée Galerie, Paris, The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh 2003-4; Brooching the Subject (solo) The Travelling Gallery, Scotland (Touring) 2003.


Work in public collections include : Crafts Council Collection, London; Museum of Decorative Arts, Montreal, Canada; Aberdeen Art Gallery; Kelvingrove Art Gallery & Museum, Glasgow; The Royal Scottish Museum, Edinburgh; The Scottish Development Agency, Edinburgh; Princeton University Chapel, U.S.A. Work in private collections in: Europe, U.S.A., Canada, Australia, New Zealand & Japan.

Curatorial projects

PARADIGMA & PARADIGMA 2: The School of Jewellery, BCU, Escola Massana, Barcelona, Fei Liu Gallery, Beijing & UK Innovations, Shanghai 2009; Maker-Wearer-Viewer, The Glasgow School of Art, The Scottish Gallery, Edinburgh and Galerie Marzee, Nijmegen, The Netherlands 2005