Iron(y) - Jewellery by Sophie Hanagarth

Exhibition  /  01 Nov 2015  -  17 Jan 2016
Published: 23.11.2015
Iron(y) - Jewellery by Sophie Hanagarth.
CODA Museum
Drs. Carin E.M. Reinders

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Bracelets shaped like both a mouth and a trap, rings with sensual lips looking to make contact, recognisable male attributes on a chain, faeces-shaped medallions, rings with bullets and entangled tongues. Hanagarth is a Swiss jewellery designer whose work plays with conventions, the rigidity of thought, and the difficulty of being open to something that deviates from the norm. Under the heading jewel, Hanagarth makes hidden parts of the body, often regarded as embarrassing or awkward, visible on the outside. By doing so, she plays with values on the basis of which we decide what is worth displaying and what should remain in shadow, silent, discrete and private. 

Artist list

Sophie Hanagarth
Sophie Hanagarth's work poses questions about the cultural and social construction of the body. She uses the wealth of language to talk about subjects that most people avoid. The titles of her works, deliberately ironic, encourage reflection. The ambiguity and dichotomy are not only present in her sense of language, but are underscored by her choice of material and technique. Steel, iron, leather, silicon and tin give male connotations, but by fashioning the material with a view to softness and smoothness of surface, Hanagarth focusses on femininity. The originality of the erotic and humorous approach to the jewel make her a much-discussed jewellery designer in Europe.
The shaping of the material and the relation to the body, combined with the irony and equivocality in Sophie Hanagarth's oeuvre raise questions related to the nature of the jewel as an attribute. The body is always there as both the inspiration and the destination of her jewels. Hanagarth knows exactly where a piece will go, how it will relate to physical movement and call up allusions. She knows this because she is fascinated by, and dedicated to, jewellery. Hanagarth: "A jewel stands so far from the body because of its artificiality, and so close; inspirited by the body."
The French language has many euphemisms for male and female sexuality. Sophie Hanagarth's series Family Jewels consists of neck jewels with two ovals that are worn at groin level. They look like long sashes that end in a testicle on either side. Hanagarth likes this ambiguity. She makes the testicles from various materials, with each material evoking different associations and exuding a decidedly sensual aura. Hanagarth is a rebel who likes to tickle, jab and arouse. At the opening of her solo exhibition in Galerie A in Geneva (1998), she invited all visitors to wear the Family Jewels. Her fascination for the physical does not only extend to the sensual; she also does not shy away from discussing a basic subject like excrement in her work. Again, she found the inspiration for this in historic iconography , language, and culture. She disguised medals of honour, Shitty Medailles (2001), and pearl necklaces using "faeces" that resembled small, brown balls, made from oxidised tins. With To put on Index (2001), the more socially involved subject of violence entered her jewellery, in the shape of a sturdy ring with star-shaped bullets, worn on the index finger, where it is causes a certain uneasiness.
Sophie Hanagarth calls ‘Iron’ her exploration of wrought iron: “What interests me is the direct transformation of the material through various pressings and bendings. Hot iron loses its structure, becomes amorphous. When iron is hot, it can be moulded like clay, offering a repertoire of organic and smooth lines and shapes." Part of this series are the bracelets Trap. These are hand-wrought iron sets of teeth based on traps, made from two iron semicircles with sharp, jointed claws, which are sometimes open, sometimes closed. They are jaws, dentures or mouths that are worn on the arm. Through the simple act of putting on these bracelets, a hand is swallowed, devoured, one of the body's extremities caught. The trap becomes an iron chain, the jewel becomes a handcuff.
About the Artist:
Sophie Hanagarth trained as a jewellery designer from 1988-1992 and graduated from the Academy of Applied Arts in Geneva (nowadays HEAD) in 1995. She has been teaching jewellery design at the Academy of Arts du Rhin in Strasbourg (HEAR) and the AFEDAP (a professional, private jewellery academy) in Paris, where she lives, since 2002. Hanagarth's work is part of various museological collections.
Sophie Hanagarth. Brooch: Shitty Medal. Iron, leather. Sophie Hanagarth
Brooch: Shitty Medal
Iron, leather
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Sophie Hanagarth. Necklace: Fleece with Golden Paws, 2004. Stainless steel, golded silver. 90cm x 25cm x 3cm. Sophie Hanagarth
Necklace: Fleece with Golden Paws, 2004
Stainless steel, golded silver
90cm x 25cm x 3cm
© By the author. Read Copyright.