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Letter to Graziella Folchini about the book review The Padua School of jewellery, considered from inside.

Article  /  Debates
Published: 26.01.2006
genèric forum genèric forum

Author:
Liesbeth den Besten
Edited at:
Amstelveen

Intro
(...)
what would have interested me as a reader,
is the question of meaning.
What does a material represent to an artist? In the short history of contemporary art jewellery, the semiotic function of certain materials, the values (beyond the economical) and meanings which are attached to materials by artists, is very interesting.
(...)
Dear Graziella Folchini Grassetto,

Thank you for your letter and comments. I would like to exchange ideas about the theme of materials. The question why The Padua School and the Italians in general are so committed to the use of gold is not really the issue. I totally agree with you that there is no need for an explanation. One can lapse into very boring and dangerous generalizations about national identities when doing so (the rational Dutch versus the romantic Italians, the Calvinists versus the Catholics, and so on).
However, what would have interested me as a reader, is the question of meaning.
What does a material represent to an artist? In the short history of contemporary art jewellery, the semiotic function of certain materials, the values (beyond the economical) and meanings which are attached to materials by artists, is very interesting. These ‘meanings and attachments’ can explain a lot about the artists’ motives as a jewellery designer. Again I realize that there is a cultural difference between Italy and Holland. Because other materials proved to serve new artistic aims, and because gold was rejected for a period of time, there was a lot of reasoning about materials in The Netherlands. These discussions and statements about the character, the properties and meanings of materials are very illuminating.
It would have been interesting to hear more from the Italian point of view, where the use of gold is so obvious and natural. For instance, in his recent jewellery (years 2002/2003), Giampaolo Babetto is treating the gold as if it is iron wire - there must be a reason for this, it looks like a statement. And if, in the brooch in image 114 (‘Barcelona’, 1996), he uses gold actually just as a ground for pigments which are applied in thick and granular layers which oppose the heavenly appearance of the basic material, gold, and also the rational and geometric character of the construction, and if in this same brooch the shine of the gold is deliberately affected by the treatment, it raises a lot of questions.
In the work of Graziano Visintin, Annamaria Zanella and Stefano Marchetti there is also this apparent awareness of the semiotic function of gold as apposed to other signs (roughness, decay, imperfection) applied in their jewellery. This is a fascinating aspect of recent developments in Paduan jewellery and it only confirms my suggestion that it would be very interesting to question the artists about the meaning of gold. It seems to be the right moment.
With warm regards,


Liesbeth den Besten, Amstelveen, 10. oct. 05

References

The book:

Graziella Folchini Grassetto
Contemporary Jewellery The Padua School
168 pages, 170 objects reproduced, mainly in colour
Hardcover with dust jacket
Text in Italian and English
Publisher: Arnoldsche. ISBN: 3-89790-202-8
Prize: US$ 75 | £ 39,80 | € 49,80 (Ger)
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