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Interview with Peter Skubic

Interview  /  ArtistsBehind the ScenesDebates
Published: 26.08.2015
Interview with Peter Skubic.
Author:
Petra Bole
Edited by:
Klimt02
Edited at:
Gamischdorf, Austria
Edited on:
2015
.

© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.

Intro
At my first solo exhibition in 1970 I had already designed my programme of work. Seven years later I wrote a manifesto, where I stated that I want to produce good, but not beautiful or decorative jewellery, using all kinds of different materials, freedom of expression. This is the concept I have not changed since and I’m still fascinated by erotica, tension (Irritation, Relations) and reflection (mirrors). I think there is no difference between art and jewellery, because in jewellery and sculpture (which as part of art really fascinates me) we are usually faced with the same problems such as form, proportions, theme and concept.
 
Peter Skubic has been making jewellery more than five decades, since he started learning engraving at the Fachschule (Technical School) in Steyr and then after he continued his studies at Akademie für angewandte Kunst (University of Applied Arts) in Vienna. He exhibited his first jewellery piece Maskulin-Feminin in 1969 in Palais Liechtenstein and since then has exhibited in many parts of the world with pieces consisting not only of jewellery but also large steel and mirror objects, installations, performances, friendship and good spirit.

Today, Peter Skubic could be defined as one of the pioneers in performance and installation in art jewellery, or, as Nicolas Bourriaud wrote in his Esthétique relationnelle, artistic activity means a game of forms, modes and features which are developed according to the time and social context, that’s why the critic must examine and evaluate only the present.

What has changed over the years and how he considers his art work today, we discussed with Peter Skubic at his very special event, his 80th birthday party at his beautiful home in, where there were many guests with visitors from more than seven different countries, many of them adorned with fabulous art jewellery.

 
Please tell us more about your background and your decision to start making jewellery at the time of the free and liberal seventies when it appeared that everything was possible and conceptual art had occurred?
I have always liked to make, repair and create new things, but, yes, everything started with the concept of erotica, that was, and still is, my greatest fascination. Since my early schuster-nicole-schuster-nicole-beginning-2016-2016s I have not changed my three main concepts of work: erotica, tension and reflection. My story began after I completed my studies at the Akademie für angewandte Kunst (University of Applied Arts) in Vienna with Prof. Eugen Mayer and when I participated at the first international exhibition in 1969 and a year after with my solo exhibition Schmuckskulptur – Skulptur Schmuck in Galerie L&K Wittmann, where I found a completely different artistic world. It was this artistic world which completly fascinated me. I have always been interested in art and jewellery as art, so at that time I was intensively attending at all kinds of art exhibitions, gathering art catalogues and trying to get to know as many artists and jewellery artists as possible. When I participated in my first international show in 1971 in Nürnberg (Gold + Silber, Schmuck + Gerät von Albrecht Dürer bis zur Gegenwart) I was surprised to discover that there were also some other jewellery artists who thought differently - in the avant-garde style similar to me - and I saw pieces from Cepka, Robert Smit, Martinazzi, Schmölzer and Pavan. This exhibition was very well received because it attracted visitors who understood different concepts of art jewellery, not only visually, but also mentally, although it is not easy to wear such jewellery that requires, above all, a lot of self-confidence. That was also the time of the appearance of conceptual art which I was not fully aware of. I understood different jewellery primarily as an open option, an extended position and freedom of thinking and making.

 Peter Skubic Irritation

 
Tell us more about your first organisation of the Symposium Schmuck aus Stahl (Jewellery in Steel) in 1975 in Kapfenberg/Steiermark. That was one of the pioneers symposiums in art jewellery, especially in regard to the material, size, proportions and attitude to the objects.
In 1974 I organised an international steel symposium Schmuck aus Stahl (Jewellery in Steel), inviting artists from six different countries, among them Gijs Bakker, Anton Cepka, Emmy van Leersum and Fritz Mairhofer, to experiment and work with steel in order to find new artistic expressions. We co-operated with four different steel factories in Linz, Ternitz, Kapfenberg and Donawitz, that produced for us large steel objects and jewellery. At the end of the symposium we organised an exhibition with larger objects and jewellery with no showcases. The objects, including insects and animals, were exhibited on a man-made hill of grass and wooden structure and were constructed with the help of a tractor. In front of the hill we created a gap to ensure that people would not be able to touch the jewellery, but, of course, some people somehow managed to jump over the gap to touch it. This exhibition was attended by more than 2000 people and happily, despite this, no jewellery was lost. Today, we would call that kind of presentation an installation but at that time it was mostly just a lot of fun.
 

How would you define your work, your concepts and thinking about jewellery?
At my first solo exhibition in 1970 I had already designed my programme of work. Seven years later I wrote a manifesto, where I stated that I want to produce good, but not beautiful or decorative jewellery, using all kinds of different materials, freedom of expression. This is the concept I have not changed since and I’m still fascinated by erotica, tension (Irritation, Relations) and reflection (mirrors). I think there is no difference between art and jewellery, because in jewellery and sculpture (which as part of art really fascinates me) we are usually faced with the same problems such as form, proportions, theme and concept.
Since schuster-nicole-schuster-nicole-beginning-2016-2016 my career I have been strongly attracted to the topic of visibility and invisibility in the sense of confrontation that is why I work with mirrors and reflections. Mirrors are visible, but the object made of mirrors could be “invisible” and it is this concept that has continuously driven me for a long time and never stops. Therefore, I wonder why I do this. The first answer is, of course, in order to create a unique piece, one that has not been created before, and secondly because I am fascinated with the question about what happens next, what are the other options because human nature is so interesting, full of secrets and I would like to know as much as possible. That is the way I make jewellery. (At the same time Peter shows a new jewellery brooch visible as a medical pills case and yet “invisible” because it is made of mirror). I also remember the exhibition I had in Kunsthalle Krems, where I exhibited jewellery that was put on mirrors without showcases and the curator was very nervous so I had to make invisible protection strings.





 
This was followed by idea and organisation of the exhibition Schmuck International 1900-1980 in Künstlerhaus in Vienna. Tell us more about it.
I was fascinated by the world of art jewellery and was interested in other artists, how they think and make jewellery, about their concepts and the materials they were using. I think that we all together represented a special society, a society of art jewellery. That is the reason I wanted to organise such a huge exhibition in Austria. I invited around 130 international artists and sent them each just one A4 invitation letter. They all responded and sent their jewellery and also drawings (that was the first such jewellery exhibition to include drawings) except Herman Jünger. It was such a gigantic exhibition with more than 1500 exhibited pieces. The preparations for this exhibition took almost one year.

 
  • If we look at jewellery, it is always participatory, as is customary in interaction with the body...


Tell us more about your performances such as Under the skin, the concept of participation in art jewellery.
In November 1975 I underwent an operation and had a small steel implant inserted under the skin of my lower arm, called Schmuck unter der Haut (Jewellery under my skin), which, after seven years, was surgically removed from my arm and I kept and secured it in the casket-shaped bezel of a ring. Photographs, also radiography, were used to document the operation as an idea of invisible jewellery. Ten years later I elaborated this idea in my series of twelve abstract black and white photos entitled The Inside of a Ring, where I did not show actual rings but instead gave hints for experiencing jewellery. This jewellery shows the final dematerialisation as invisible, jewellery that only exists in our imaginations. I did not understand performance at that time, it was more than experiment and research into what would happen. If we look at jewellery, it is always participatory, as is customary in interaction with the body.

 

 

 
  • Wearability is not important, what is important is to be able to wear that kind of jewellery. The myth of wearing jewellery is not real, since most jewellery is actually in showcases or hanging on walls...


When does an object become a piece of jewellery for you? How important is the wearability and the body for your work?
Every person has different life phases, which are also reflected in jewellery. If you are going through a strange phase, the jewellery will also reflect this. Each piece of jewellery is very personal. Therefore, wearability is not important, what is important is to be able to wear that kind of jewellery. The myth of wearing jewellery is not real, since most jewellery is actually in showcases or hanging on walls, in reality very little jewellery is actually worn (at the same time Peter shows a ring which is very difficult to put on the finger and even harder to take off. Once removed, the ring leaves red marks on the skin). The circle of this ring is not a circle, it is a jagged line. This ring is like a metaphor of my life. Wearability cannot be considered as something that does not change.

 
  • Collectors are important because it means I can sell my jewellery, although it appears that the majority of collectors are in the Netherlands, but unfortunately mostly of them collected mainly Dutch jewellery...


How do you see the difference between the 80's (“Golden Age”) and the art jewellery world of today? What do you think will happen and what is the future of art jewellery and artists?
In the 80's there was the appearance of high quality (one could even say aggressive) jewellery artists with an extraordinary quality. However, if we look at today’s quality of new artists we can measure perhaps just a 20% quality. A lot has changed. In the seventies we opened the door through which all types now walk – good and bad. There is also the question of art jewellery collectors. Collectors are an important part of the art jewellery world. I remember when in 1993 I donated over 60 pieces - a collection of other jewellery artists - to Die Neue Sammlung – The International Design Museum Munich, which was a step to creating a larger collection. Collectors are important because it means I can sell my jewellery, although it appears that the majority of collectors are in the Netherlands, but unfortunately mostly of them collected mainly Dutch jewellery. Every year different art academies produces thousands of new art jewellery students. I think some of them will remain on the jewellery scene longer than others, but only those who believe 100% in themselves and in art jewellery, and, of course, are ready to put in a lot of hard work and effort – will succeed. This is my message for future artists. Think, work and feel it. (At the same time Peter showed me a golden frame with white paper and typed words, a written manifesto, the work of Manfred Nisslmüller about how to use his jewellery). Yes, you have to think and think a lot about jewellery.

 

About the author


Petra Bole finished BA at Faculty of Architecture in Ljubljana and the Master of Art at Sir John Cass Faculty of Art, Architecture and Design in London. She is a PhD candidate at Faculty of Humanities Koper, University of Primorska with her thesis Jewellery as Art. She is teaching at Faculty of Design in Ljubljana where she is in charge for Department of Product Design.

 
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