Karin Jones : The Golden Section

March 2 – April 20, 2024
Saturday, March 9, 2024 from 3 p.m. to 5 p.m.
Karin Jones: The Golden Section

Text by Vania Djelani

As a multidisciplinary artist with a background in jewellery and design, Karin Jones’ work explores how materiality can be manipulated to construct a sense of identity. Drawing on historical and colonial narratives, Jones works with elements of design history to address systems of labour and production, consumerism, representation and distribution of commodities. Particularly focused on the construction of cultural identities, her recent body of work employs the use of hair, more specifically bleached blond hair extensions. 

In The Golden Section, the intermingling relationship between capitalism, race, and identity is addressed in response to the global trade of human hair, an industry that exports hair taken from women in developing countries as commodities for the Western world. Through the form of wigs and extensions, this intimate item is often purchased with little regard to the bodies and narratives it came from. Additionally, much of the product is sold to women of African descent as a way to mimic and embody European hairstyles. In this sense, Jones’ work with commercially available blond hair extensions further alludes to the complexities behind the creation of Eurocentric beauty standards.

By working with traditional wig making methods, The Golden Section presents a series of geometric patterns formed by knotting and styling blond hair on mesh. With the colour of the sun and gold, fair hair has a long history of being associated with innocence and purity. Each strand is meticulously gathered and styled, further extending hair into the realm of the decorative, as an ornament meant to adorn and to accessorise. As a material we encounter on a daily basis, when discovered detached or in unexpected places, hair can conjure up feelings of disgust. Gathering as copious mounds on dustpans, it becomes a waste matter signalling the shift from body to debris. As a fugitive of beauty, the precious treatment of hair methodically placed in Jones installation allows this relic to survive us.

Oscillating between art and artefact, Karin Jones’ The Bond continues to explore identity and race through fine craft by recreating Queen Victoria’s wedding dress out of cornrows using Kanekalon—a material created for African braiding styles. During an era where fashion revealed or concealed one’s status within society, this garment popularised the use of white wedding dresses for decades to come. Queen Victoria’s reign marked Britain’s great age of industrial expansion, economic progress, and empire, where fashion was used as a signifier for cultural superiority—who has it and, more importantly, who is excluded from it.