Back

Karl Fritsch

Exhibition  /  13 Oct 2007  -  10 Nov 2007
Published: 24.10.2007
Galerie Bijouterie Jungblut
Karl Fritsch. Ring: Untitled, 2007. Karl Fritsch
Ring: Untitled, 2007
© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.

Intro
While early impressions of Karl’s work sometimes evoked the response that it was a rude assault on conventional jewellery history, I believe he showed an appreciation, gratitude even, of this history.

Artist list

Karl Fritsch
The Host with the Most

The recent discovery of beads made from Nassarius shells in an Israeli cave has pushed the age of material culture back a further 30,000 years. Previously a discovery of similar beads in a South African cave had set the date at 77,000 years ago. Whatever the eventual age of such discoveries turns out to be, we are probably already justified in making the claim that jewellery represents the earliest evidence of symbolic expression. Or as I saw it referred to: the oldest evidence of our capacity to ‘store information outside the human brain’ 1.

Contemporary jewellery is a rather insubstantial development in this 100,000 year-old history but one that takes its contribution seriously and does not want to end up as an odd limb that evolved in the 20th century but withered because there was no further use for it.

Like other art forms with foundations in the 20th century, contemporary jewellery prides itself on its capacity to renew. To some extent that capacity haunts us and we continually long for bold shifts in contemporary practice. That longing for renewal, coupled with the search for uniqueness is a cardinal rule of contemporary art. I think it is one of my own commandments: to make jewellery that does not look like someone else’s and, in my case to achieve that while going as close as is bearable to other things that have already been made – making the familiar look new again.

I remember feeling this sense of renewal when I first saw Karl Fritsch’s jewellery. That was 10 years ago and the pieces that gave me that sense were the ones using found jewellery with oozing interventions added by Karl. Those works have since assumed a deserved place in the contemporary jewellery cannon and I was interested to see them referred to recently in a 2006 exhibition statement by Karl in this interesting metaphoric manner:

I see parallels in my approach to jewellery and the growth of the rata tree. These trees start life as an epiphyte in the branches of another tree. As it grows the epiphyte rata sends roots down to the ground. It eventually replaces the host tree when it dies.
More than ten years ago I began using conventional jewellery pieces as a grounding material in my work. Like the epiphyte rata I added my attachment in gold or silver, nestling in or on a ring and also growing over entire pieces of jewellery.
Most of my recent rings do not include any ready-made pieces they are entirely replaced by my own creations. 2.

I was interested because writing statements about one’s work is a somewhat fraught business and I am always intrigued to see how colleagues manage the task of capturing the reality of their work in pithy statements. Also my curiosity was piqued by Karl’s use of a New Zealand native tree to illustrate his approach to jewellery. When I read his statement I went to the bookshelves to find out more about the growth habit of the tree that Karl is describing. The rata gets a bit of a ‘telling-off’ in Cockayne’s New Zealand Plants and their Story,

“The northern rata frequently behaves in this most ungrateful manner’.

But Salmond’s Native Trees of New Zealand is a bit kinder in its condemnation,

‘Some claim that the rata kills the host, but this has been questioned. It is probable that a rata can germinate only on an aging host: vigorous trees can resist its growth’.

Certainly those conventional jewellery settings were an ‘aging host’ for Karl’s ‘attachments’ but to my mind those early rings of Karl’s, with their epiphytic roots, weren’t choking the life out of jewellery history – they were depending on it for support. That later his jewellery learned to stand without the obvious support of the ‘found’ pieces is a reasonable interpretation of the rata metaphor (as Karl says ‘entirely replaced by my own creations’) but to me Karl’s work is more about accommodating the host than killing it. It is not a bid for independence from jewellery history but an acknowledgement of the dependency that exists between what he does and the past. It is the confident accommodation of jewellery’s history that makes Karl’s work great.

While early impressions of Karl’s work sometimes evoked the response that it was a rude assault on conventional jewellery history, I believe he showed an appreciation, gratitude even, of this history. It shows through in his use of skills associated with that history – skills like the bead setting of precious stones and the lost-wax casting of precious metals. Despite the rough rendering of the traditional jewellery forms the presence of the conservative history is still palpable - it gives Karl’s work a sense of familiarity and he shows it a very real affection.

Contemporary jewellery may be a rude and sometimes rough guest but it isn’t ungrateful to a host with a 100,000-year-old history. Besides, that history will not be killed off by contemporary jewellery’s behaviour. I am attached to that history just as Karl is and it is in my interest that contemporary jewellery remains a robust practice (Metrosideros robusta is the rata’s Latin name, from robus meaning strength). When Karl renews contemporary jewellery, my practice is strengthened. 


Warwick Freeman 2006

1.’The Blombos beads present absolute evidence for perhaps the earliest storage of information outside the human brain’ Christopher Henshilwood -University of Bergen in Norway, the director of the Blombo cave project.
2. Exhibition statement - Karl Fritsch: Metrosiderous Robusta - Fingers, Auckland April 2006 

Karl Fritsch. Ring: Untitled, 2007. Karl Fritsch
Ring: Untitled, 2007
© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.
Karl Fritsch. Ring: Untitled, 2007. Karl Fritsch
Ring: Untitled, 2007
© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.
Karl Fritsch. Ring: Untitled, 2007. Karl Fritsch
Ring: Untitled, 2007
© By the author. Read Klimt02.net Copyright.
Appreciate APPRECIATE