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Making the Medals

The 2018 medals were designed by Shimell and Madden – a Shoreditch-based jewellery studio whose work is strongly influenced by the universal and symbolic language of geometry. Taking simple yet powerful primal shapes, the designers create pieces that have both an ancient and modern resonance. In response to the Biennale’s 2018 theme, Emotional States, Shimell and Madden sought to highlight the mechanics at work when we observe, imitate and reflect facial expressions. They used a mirrored surface in the design as a representative device for this process of emotional identification.

Using metal manipulation, the designers created four warped circular shapes, each subtly different so as to echo the intricate and ineffable factors that distinguish us and our emotions.  

Fascinating and familiar, mirrors have always been a source of intrigue. They open the door to ideas about chirality, virtuality and perceptions of self – projections of our opposite. The undulating surface of each medal invites the observer to look at the changing and transforming reflections on its surface, just as our perception of self and our environment is shaped by our emotions and experiences.

Shimell and Madden created the four brass medals using only hand-metalworking techniques. The shape was hand-pierced, the surface hammer-formed and the finish hand-polished and hand-engraved. The medal stand is functional in form but embodies the geometric style of the designers.  

'We felt the final design we put forward for the Biennale medals was exciting in its visual interactivity while eloquently incorporating the 2018 theme. The medals reflect our making practice of fusing traditional metalworking techniques with conceptual design. We hope the design provokes both thought and enjoyment, and also serves as a meaningful award for the winners’ achievements.’ Emma Madden, Co-Founder, Shimell and Madden

Continuing the London story for this year’s Medal design, the Biennale commissioned Rob Hadrill, director of London book-binding studio Book Works, to make the presentation boxes. Each box was crafted by hand in Book Works’ Shoreditch workshop.