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© Francisca Onumah. Photo credit: Jerry Lampson



Craft, Metalwork


Britannia silver, Copper


40 x 40 x 40 (grouping) cm


Presented by the Contemporary Art Society through the Griffin Award, with the support of Sheffield Assay Office, 2022/23

Ownership history:

Commissioned from the artist by the Contemporary Art Society, with the support of the Griffin Award, 2022; presented to Sheffield Museums Trust, 2022/23
Francisca Onumah’s ambiguous vessels embody a juxtaposition of vulnerability and strength through their anthropomorphic forms. The commission walks the line between sculpture and functionality. Onumah works from sheet metal, using a variation of mark-making techniques, contrasting neat and irregular patterns. The tactile nature of the surface is complemented by the sensuous forms of her figurative vessels, inspiring a desire to handle.

Taking inspiration from textiles, Onumah’s emotive vessels are clothed in layers of different textures and patterns that mimic the motifs and reliefs found in fabric. The folds, drapery and textures are incorporated into the surface pattern of the vessels she creates. Seams and expressive marks created during fold forming – features that tend to be polished away in traditional silversmithing – are intentionally made a dominant feature of the surface pattern. The employment of these so called ‘imperfections’, whose beauty is seen and highlighted, challenges the hierarchy of values within silversmithing.

Clothed Akin (2023) is a family of vessels commissioned by Sheffield Museums Trust for the Griffin Award. Although each vessel has a different surface texture and form, what makes them ‘akin’ is a similarity in posture and disposition. Onumah says that the vessels are characterised ‘by vulnerably precarious postures’ and that these characteristics are enhanced by the contrasting of the dark oxidised finish with the matt silver finish. She continues: ‘they lean into each other as if in quiet conversation, sitting in a shadowy sombre scenery of tactility.’

Sheffield Museums Trust cares for and displays a designated metalwork collection of over 13,000 objects within the Sykes Metalwork Gallery at the Millennium Gallery, Sheffield. It is the home of over 600 years of metalworking history, representing designers, makers, silversmiths and innovators. In the last 20 years Sheffield has collected metalwork by emerging and established local, regional and national designer–makers and it continues to collect significant works, reflecting civic pride and ensuring the collection is representative of the city today. Onumah has said, ‘Having, lived and worked in Sheffield for five years and built a relationship with Sheffield Museums, I’m so pleased that a family of my vessels are now a part of the city’s collection. The recognition and incredible support of the Contemporary Arts Society Griffin Award and of Sheffield Museums means so much for me and my practice.’

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