Golden Clogs, Dutch Mountains
Exhibition / 06 Mar 2008 - 20 Apr 2008
Galerie Noel Guyomarc'h
- Noel Guyomarc'h
(...) There seems to be a kind of Dutch tradition of integrating diverse, contrary disciplines. This openness to mixing materials and techniques and the uncommon approaches taken in integrating them into a whole are extensions of a mindset that is extremely liberal and not comfortable with restrictions. (...)
Golden Clogs, Dutch Mountains - the title of this exhibition is full of contradictions, and perhaps the work on show will contradict prevailing ideas about Dutch jewellery as well. There is not a typical Dutch style in jewelry today, as there was in the Sixties and Seventies of the last century - the period when studio jewelry was re-invented in Holland. I deliberately make use of this word 're-invented' because studio jewelry existed already since the post-war years when jewellers like Archibald Dumbar and Chris Steenbergen decided to start working in their own studio as independent artist-jewellers, making work for clients as well as for themselves with the aim to show these in art and craft galleries and exhibitions.
However, since the end of the Sixties and in the Seventies Dutch jewelry has really come alive.
Jewelry designers such as Emmy van Leersum, Gijs Bakker, Françoise van den Bosch and Marion Herbst developed new ideas about the design, technology, concept and meaning of jewelry. They were not alone, in Britain and Germany young colleagues were captured by similar ideas and novelties. In 1985 the British chronicler of contemporary jewelry Ralph Turner, coined the term 'The New Jewelry', when he published a book under this title. This designation is still useful. We can still feel the swing, the energy and the flow of this period in European jewelry if we see examples of it today. There were differences though, between those European countries where this 'New Jewelry' occurred. In Britain colour, flexible materials and wearability were the main issues, while in Germany the fusion of gold and new colourful materials such as Perspex was investigated. In these days Dutch jewelry was a matter of research rather than that of experimentation. The epitome of restraint in design and aesthetics was found in Holland, where a whole generation of young jewellery designers became fervent followers of an abstract geometrical design approach governed by a desire to break away from the golden standard of craftsmanship and the old-fashioned romanticism that had always been surrounding the profession of the noble goldsmith. It was their aim to work as a designer, by developing pieces of jewellery in series which started from certain well formulated design principles such as rational interventions in industrial materials like prefabricated aluminium or steel tubes, sheet material, or Perspex. The 'New Jewelry' was in the first place an emancipation movement, a way to find a new self-confidence and a new identity within the broad perspective of crafts, design and fine arts.
>From 1969-1973 an important exhibition of Dutch jewelry travelled through the United States. The title was Objects to Wear and it showed the very early, rather ostentatious results of the new movement in Dutch jewelry. The exhibition must have had some impact in the States, because the abstract Dutch jewelry was miles away from the American narrative jewelry. Since then a lot has happened. The purist attitude and aesthetic has long since been abandoned, but the will to research and to cross borders has remained.
Thanks to the developments of the 1960s and 70s, the 'jewellery climate' in Holland is fertile and stimulating, with excellent jewellery galleries, a highly attractive jewellery education at the Rietveld Academy in Amsterdam and governmental support for jewellery artists, curators and even buyers.
The imaginative title of this exhibition of Dutch jewellery from the twenty-first century Golden Clogs, Dutch Mountains could not have been invented thirty years ago. The imagery of the title evokes a versatile land with something strange going on. We don't wear any clogs anymore, and they were never made of gold, while our mountains are nothing more than soft rises in the flat fields. Not only is the title indicative of something strange going on, the group of participants is strange as well. Of these 11 women only 5 are Dutch, the rest are German though altogether dutchified. This raises the tricky question whether there is something called 'Dutch', or if there is something which might be denominated as a 'Dutch identity'. One thing may be clear, these young artists are not afraid of experiments, they are all innovative and curious researchers. They are using resin, porcelain, textiles, fur or glass without restraint, as long as it serves their aim to tell a story, or to support the content of the work. Dutch jewelry has a narrative streak without necessarily being illustrative or figurative. In a world which seems paralysed by numerous unsolvable threats, in an accelerating society without securities, people tend to attach to personal objects.
Jewellery can have this function, a piece of jewellery can be a desirable thing - not because of its intrinsic, material preciousness but because of a preciousness of a new order: time, care and meaning. Jewels are never inert or mute, their appearance immediately raises narratives. Dutch jewellery artists seem to be well aware of this. Although their jewellery has decorative qualities, its beauty goes far beyond that. Its beauty is in the imagery, and in the power to evoke associations. Some of the artists, such as Gesine Hackenberg and Manon van Kouswijk refer to daily objects and daily rituals. Katja Prins and Jantje Fleischhut give a new meaning to mechanical devices. Others, such as Francis Willemstijn, Iris Nieuwenburg, Constanze Schreiber and Iris Eichenberg depict historical themes. While for Andrea Wagner, Stephanie Jendis and Ineke Heerkens it is the visual spectacle which invites to enter another world. The jewels in this show have a very personal nature, and they invite to be discovered, to be close with, to be worn.
Liesbeth den Besten
art historian in Holland
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