From May 23rd until July 26th, 2014 within the European Capital of Culture „Rīga 2014” framework „Amber Vein” , Art gallery PUTTI is organizing international contemporary jewellery exhibition “Amber in Contemporary Art Jewellery” (“Dzintars mūsdienu laikmetīgajās mākslas rotās” ). The core idea of the exhibition is to demonstrate the possible range of application of amber in the contemporary art jewellery created by professional jewellers. This area of interest is largely based on the specific materiality of amber – and its historical significance. The choice of exhibition organizers to choose „Amber Road” as the thematic background is not accidental; it played a significant role between 1st and 5th centuries AD as an exchange route of goods between the Baltic Sea region and Roman Empire. The route started in the eastern coastal area of the Baltic Sea, which at that time was inhabited by the Prussians and Curonians. It continued down the Visla up to the city of Karnunta (currently in Hungary) and further to the coast of the Adriatic Sea and the Apennine peninsula, providing Rome with the precious and exclusive material. Many Roman coins and antiquities found in the graveyards in the Baltic countries is perceived as the evidence of this trade route together with testimonies in the writings of Roman Empire era. Thus not only will Latvian and Italian jewellers participate in the exhibition but also artists from countries that Amber Road passed through (Russia, Estonia, Lithuania, Poland, Austria, Slovenia, and Hungary). This exhibition will not only link the Amber Road geographically, but also historically by connecting the ancient times with the present, the past with the future and demonstrating the spectacular miracle of amber jewellery creation. The stage of the exhibition is set by an internationally renowned fashion designer brand “MAREUNROL’S”. The fashion designers – Mārīte Mastiņa and Rolands Pēterkops created their first joint collection in 2002 while still being students at Riga Applied Art College. Since then, they have participated and received awards in various international fashion and arts festivals, including the International Fashion and Photography Festival in Hyeres (France). (www.mareunrols.com and http://putti.lv/en/mareunrols ) Exhibition catalogue is designed by Kirils Kirasirovs and the text authors are Una Meistere and Daiga Rudzāte. The catalogue is issued by the arts and culture portal “Arterritory” (www.arterritory.com). The catalogue publishing is supported by “Rīga 2014”. Twenty artists take part in the exhibition: Andris Lauders (Latvia), Claudia Steiner (Austria), Eva Tesarik (Austria), Eve Margus-Villems (Estonia), Fanni Vékony (Hungary), Gigi Mariani (Italy), Guntis Lauders (Latvia), Heidemarie Herb (Italy), Helfried Kodré (Austria), Jānis Vilks (Latvia), Jurgita Erminaitė-Šimkuvienė (Lithuania), Maria Cristina Bellucci (Italy), Māris Auniņš (Latvia), Māris Šustiņš (Latvia), Nataša Grandovec (Slovenia), Nikolai Balabin (Russia), Pawel Kaczynski (Poland), Sara Gackowska (Poland), Valdis Brože (Latvia) and Viktoria Münzker (Austria).
The jewellery Andris Lauders has created for the “Amber in Contemporary Jewellery” exhibition is a conceptually multi-layered story, a story created by the symbiosis of contemporary form and content relating to the origin of amber. Lauders says, “While contemplating the amount of time it takes for pine resin to turn into amber, I began to understand that the mammoth is actually a contemporary of amber.” In Lauders’ work, unpolished amber contrasts with polished mammoth bone and matte silver, and the fishing-boat form of his jewellery calls to mind the sea, the birthplace of amber. In other pieces, a millstone reminds the wearer of the time it takes for resin to turn into amber.
Claudia Steiner’s philosophy is largely determined by her statement that jewellery is like miniature sculptures that provide information about their wearers. Her inspiration for the “Amber in Contemporary Jewellery” exhibition is the historical Amber Road, which began in Estonia, crossed through Latvia, Russia, Poland, Czech Republic, Hungary, Slovenia, Austria and ended in Italy.
Eva Tesarik says she is inspired by the “cabinets of curiosities” so popular in the bejewelled Renaissance era. Wealthy people of that era installed such cabinets, or rooms, for their own joy and exhibited their rarities with pride, paying no attention to grouping objects according to art, science or other fields. Tesarik’s “The Gold of the North” collection is a portable (wearable) cabinet of curiosities in which amber is paired with a great variety of materials.
Eve Margus – Villems
Eve Margus-Villems’ Citrinitas Borealis is a kind of paraphrase of the northern lights phenomenon, in which the colour spectrum is influenced by the continuous but imperceptible presence of the moon. This work is just as changeable as the light in northern climates, and an essential characteristic of it is transformation. Light is able to transform amber into anything; it can transform amber into a berry or any other object, including the human form.
Fanni Vékony admits that she respects traditional craftsmanship and draws joy from simple instruments and the slowness of handmade techniques. But she is also excited by new materials and methods: “I am fascinated by the possibility of sublimating the past and future.”
Gigi Mariani’s jewellery is like a miniature sculptural object that is able to at once “sit” on the wearer’s hand and also exhibit itself as a piece of art in the room. Mariani emphasises that in creating his work he tries to form a relationship with sculpture, moving away from the common notion of jewellery. For him, surface and texture fascinate…the coal-like dark, rough outer layer of oxidised metal is like a cast-iron setting through which gold and silver has broken through. Mariani says that just as a painter has his canvas upon which to sublimate his emotional world, so he has his jewellery, in which common feelings are spontaneously transformed.
Guntis Lauders has always declared that he searches for inspiration in nature….in the way the water ripples in a pond, or in the play of light between a tree’s branches. This exhibition is no different, with Lauders having found inspiration for his amber jewellery from the world around him during the 2013 Song and Dance Festival. During the festival, the air in Latvia was saturated with a feeling of Latvianness, prompting in Lauders associations with “other happy Latvian things such as singing, dancing, joking songs, decorations and Latvia’s only gemstone, amber. All of these things must from time to time be taken out of the storage chests and dusted off. The words must be cleared of clichés, the songs of officiality, the amber of polish and souvenir booths. Natural, unpolished, uncomplicated amber tells its own tales—tales of singing, dancing and the enjoyment of life.”
The harmony of movement, form and colour are particularly important to Heidemarie Herb, and she strives to have each of her creations embody this interaction between these phenomena. She is inspired by the study of the relationship between the person and the world, which involves generally known but at once eternal occurrences and processes. A person’s life from birth to death, the secrets and mysteries of nature, the presence of colour, the birth of thought…. Herb enjoys awakening the senses and the mind, provoking emotions and destroying the superficiality and egocentrism that are such ingrained parts of modern-day life.
The artistic language of Helfried Kodré’s jewellery is recognised by its geometric articulation. He enjoys playing with volumes and the interaction between them. “The cube and the square have been symbols of ideal proportion from time immemorial. In them is reflected the idea of the universe, of permanence and perfection, of regularity and divinity. (..) Throughout the history of philosophy, basic geometric forms have represented the perfect fusion of matter and spirit and the intermingling of space and time, which was an a priori given for Kant. Since the time of Heraclitus, Aristotle and Plato, the process of abstraction has been manifest therein as the sum of man’s knowledge and experience of his ontological condition.” Gallery owner Ellen Maurer-Zilioli has commented on the system of characters in Kodré’s work in the book Helfried Kodré—Structural Design and adds that he accepts generally accepted rules, yet is not afraid to question them.
Jānis Vilks’ jewellery is monumental, laconic in form and seeks to reveal the uniqueness of materials. All of these characteristics are present in his amber jewellery collection, which has preserved the natural form and texture of this gem born of resin. The artist has intervened only so much as to adapt the material to human anatomy. Vilks has also used mammoth tusk – another material with a similar place and manner of origin as amber and that likewise evokes the ancient world.
Jurgita Erminaitė-Šimkuvienė’s work in the “Amber in Contemporary Jewellery” is distinctive in its anti-utilitarianism, thereby revealing the essence of conceptual jewellery. Her work titled Made in China is a philosophical meditation on the theme “fast, cheap, effective”, which is one of the main slogans in today’s world, which is overrun with goods made in China. Erminaitė-Šimkuvienė found the artistic commentary in this work in the recipe for the popular Lithuanian dessert tinginys (laziness): “two packages of cookies (amber will do), 100 grams of butter (epoxy resin works well), condensed milk (sand) and five tablespoons cocoa (iron oxide). Wait until it all hardens.”
Maria Cristina Belluci
Maria Cristina Bellucci studies the interactions between a very large variety of materials and utilises these in her work. But she is also interested in the chemical composition and unique number of atoms in each raw material as well as the ability of amber to conduct electricity and thereby link the most diverse substances in a unified chain. Reading the descriptions of her artwork can be truly confusing due to the many chemical element symbols used in place of philosophical contemplation. And suddenly it’s no surprise to find out that Bellucci studied alchemy in Florence in 2008. The result of her creative experiments is a series of necklaces of varying lengths that can be turned in the fingers like a rosary, allowing the wearer to feel the materiality of silver, amber, papier-mâché, epoxy resin, rubber and marble and also look upon them as objects that illustrate scientific formulas.
Māris Auniņš has always stood out from other jewellers with his special piety towards material and his ability to accent a material’s uniqueness. His “Amber Square” is the union of two magical archetypes into one unified whole. Amber, one of the most ancient pure geological materials, and the square, the image of harmony and orderliness, form the foundation of his jewellery collection. The composition is comprised of four rectangular brooches of various sizes that can be combined in any way to form a square. Describing the essence of his idea, Auniņš says, “My collection is based on laconism – a clean geometric form – that accentuates the uniqueness of Baltic amber.”
Not only does form as a whole play an important part in Māris Šustiņš’ jewellery, but so do details. And sometimes very minute details. It seems the artist is always yearning to tell a story, and this time is no exception. Šustiņš’ collection of five rings portrays the development of a flower – from bud to fruit – and symbolises the formation of a personality over the span of a lifetime. He explains: “The golden blossom in China, the lotus in India, the rose in Persia and Europe…. This time I chose the yellow waterlily as my flower, which is symbolically closely related to what happens in a person. The roots of this flower stretch deep into the soil, the stem grows through the water and the golden blossom opens above the water, in the sunshine. This flower can be considered a symbol of the person, whose physical body is his earthly foundation and who then spiritually develops through emotions (water) and his mind (air). By thus growing and perfecting himself, he blooms in spirit (the sun) and light.”
With her amber collection Nataša Grandovec is attempting to destroy her own stereotypes. “I thought it was only my grandmother and her friends who wore amber brooches and necklaces.” So Grandovec has deliberately gone the light-hearted route, desiring to rid herself and amber of associations that have followed her since childhood and that have relegated amber to the role of being an accessory for maturity and the end of life. Her work is characterised by that happy, over-abundant lightness found in, for example, children’s toys. Brooches with a touch of summer-sky blue gleaming next to amber and silver, or an amber “ice cream” with a dark red “cherry” attached to a plane of tarnished silver – these are accessories that are able to add a thing or two not only to seriousness but also to frivolity.
Nikolai Balabin believes amber is one of the most inspiring materials in jewellery-making; it is like a window to the past. “When I find a piece of amber that inspires me, I put it in my pocket and carry it with me. I can take it out at any time and look at it. After all, its mystical inner light wakens my imagination and I hear stories. And then I start to materialise them, all the while trying to preserve the natural form and structure of the stone.” He accentuates amber’s uniqueness by using patinated silver for the background, which contrasts well with the sun-like brilliance of amber. Pick up one of his realistic miniature objects, and you can feel the warmth of the amber and see its magical light. You might even hear it, says Balabin.
Paweł Kaczynski works in a variety of disciplines, but his main and most powerful mode of expression is nevertheless jewellery. His style is characterised by surprising combinations of materials, and amber is one his identifying marks not only in his native Poland but worldwide. Kaczynski is unique in his ability to transform silver, steel and aluminium to look more like textiles than metalwork. Like a spider, Kaczynski “weaves” amber into his metallic webs, which seem to be created of fragile threads.
Sara Gackowska attempts to define the boundaries of possibility for stones and jewellery-making by understanding the contemporary expression of form and content. “The material becomes the mirror of the visual image of my thoughts and experiences,” she explains. She has a special relationship with material and an ability to feel its qualities and enter the material, all the while keeping in mind the importance of context. These, then, are the instruments Gackowska uses to create objects that speak a language of their own.
Valdis Brože believes amber is made up of stories. “Having travelled through time and space, amber has soaked up all that has taken place before and it has then hardened into historical fact.” According to Brože, amber sublimates finality and does not wish to reveal more than is already visible. By touching the stone’s surface and working it, the artist attempts to awaken the amber in the hopes of obtaining answers. Brože has given names to the pieces in his “Atmiņu gabali” (Pieces of Memory) collection: “the big, talkative one” tells about the sea, light and silence; “the blond, pensive one” tells about fir trees, the wind and bird voices…. It feels as if the desire to approach the stone is so immense that it is finally willing to reveal itself.
I love to dive. Into the depth of the oceans, into the colours of nature, into the subconscious. Through imagination the undiscovered world of inward beings is brought to daily life till a piece of jewelry is created. The question is not “Where does my inspiration come from?” But “Where does it end?”.