Research – Medals, two sided objects

While discussing the idea of medals with a fellow maker in the year below, who is also doing a project focused around medals, it gave me some alternative ideas in regards to my own medals.

pivot rings and house

We were discussing the idea of miniature and dolls houses, a subject which she is interested in, and I suggested the idea of a bisected dolls house in which you could see the silhouette or relief of objects and things inside the house. While it is not so clearly demonstrated in this sketch, I was suggesting that perhaps upon turning the medal over, it in fact reveals a different scene, even though it is still using the same silhouettes and positive/negative spaces. Perhaps one side showing a very immaculate and pedestrian household, and on the reverse finding all the rubbish that is hidden behind the tables/chairs/sofa etc. This brings to mind the importance of the relationship between the obverse and reverse of a medal, and the contrast and interplay that can be made between the two. One example that comes to mind is Nichola Moss’s medal, “Cow Pat”


Nicola Moss “Cow Pat”

While the two sides may be in completely different scales, and don’t necessarily reflect the use of space of the medal, the relationship between the two sides in regards to each other is evident. The reverse side is a continuation, a new part of the story, from the front; a punchline to the joke. For me I think this connectedness in narrative is a very important part of what I want to encorporate into the medal, the process of viewing one side as a continuation or a reflection of the other, rather than two individual images that happen to be related.



This relation and interplay can also be reflected in the shape of the medal itself, as seen by Bethan Williams in her medal Gwyniad where the two sides of the medal show different versions of the fish, presumably in relation to different portions of the story it is taken from. Taking the same image and mirroring it for the reverse is a simple but effective way of telling a different portion of the same story, and giving a sense of flow between the two sides. In many medals this is also done by having the front and reverse of the medal quite literally be the front and back sides of a subject, such as Rob Kesseler’s “A Book of Leaves”

book of leaves 1

While this may seem in some ways simplistic, there is a charm and surprise in seeing two sides of an object made into a relief. This also comes back to the original idea that I discussed of having an element of the literal reverse sides of the subject being shown, however perhaps with an element of surprise or something that was not expected to be there.

The use of form in changing imagery can also be used in different ways, where the same form makes a completely different image when looking at the reverse; as seen in Julian Cross’s “Fox and Grapes and Crow” .

fox grapes 1

While the two sides may be reflections of the same story, shown from the different perspectives of the fox and the crow, the images on the two sides are composed completely differently yet are constricted to the same space. This is also a very interesting and ambitious take on the idea, although possibly more complex in its execution. Another example of this, with less intricate detail but as equally clever in its use of form is Marian Fountain’s “The Muse and Her Mother” looking at the changing states of womanhood using the two sides of the medal.

muse and mother 1

Not only does the form of the medal reflect the design in contrasting ways on both sides, but what is also interesting to me is the use of metaphor that changes context on the reverse. On the obverse, the woman is holding a golden ribbon which forms the edge of the medal, triumphant and strong. However on the reverse, with the birthing of the child, the ribbon becomes entangled between the woman and child, and she is no longer holding it but simply trapped by it. This intelligent use of metaphor is something I would like to be able to reflect in my own work.



3 Comments on “Research – Medals, two sided objects”

  1. […] initially; a look ‘behind the scenes’ as it were. This is something I touched on in a previous post, looking at artists who use the two sides of the medal in tandem with each other in order to progress […]

  2. […] mean that there would no longer be a strong interplay between the front and reverse sides, which I have previously discussed is a strong feature of the medal in my […]

  3. […] This could be shown in a manner of ways, and would very heavily rely on the interplay between front and obverse sides as I have previously expressed is an important part of the medal design for me. Perhaps rather than […]

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