Contemporary Jewellery: Georg Dobler, Winfried Krüger, Karen Pontoppidan, Marianne Schliwinski

Article  /  Artists
Published: 26.01.2006
Contemporary Jewellery: Georg Dobler, Winfried Krüger, Karen Pontoppidan, Marianne Schliwinski.
Graziella Folchini Grassetto

For all their diversity, these four artists have in common a tendency to draw their inspiration from the natural world, even if they approach such themes in very different ways and express them in their own individual stylistic languages.
The four important artists covered in this show are all from a German artistic background, even if one of them is Danish: Karen Pontoppidan, who trained at the actively-experimental Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich, where she is now assistant to Prof Otto Künzli, Head of the Jewellery Department.

For all their diversity, these four artists have in common a tendency to draw their inspiration from the natural world, even if they approach such themes in very different ways and express them in their own individual stylistic languages.

Georg Dobler’s interest in Nature does not end with capturing the beauty of a stemmed flower with bud and leaf; he aims to bring out how organic form seems to be an expression of a structural equilibrium. There is something of the atmosphere of Metaphysical Art, which captured that aura of stasis in which flowers and objects appeared immersed in a mysteriously abstract act of communication. In Dobler’s work one can see a dual reading of naturalistic figurative work: for all its emphasis on sensual charm, there is also an insistence on the rigidly-logical organic structures that thus reveal an abstract identity. In his investigation of floral motifs the artist uses technological means - for example, spectroscopic investigations of cells and molecules - and thence transposes scientific data into figurative form. The reality of the senses thus appears as a revelation of a underlying complexity, with the artist representing not only form and colour but also implicit structure.

Dobler brings together the multiplicity of the natural, often representing the components that play a role in genetic organisation: when he describes a flower as an entity of appearance, his rigorous rendition of form not only accommodates the intensity of sensual appearance but often seems to be a botanical exploration as well. In his complex combinations of geometrical forms - in particular, squares juxtaposed in an apparently Constructivist way - the various surfaces of the materials result in a temporal, existential reading of appearance. And the mechanical combinations of interwoven tubular axes, held in place by hexagonal screws of transparent amethysts, are not a stylised, geometrical rendition of branches but the formulation of a possible primary structure of organic form. Dobler’s vast range of materials even includes photographs: sometimes the spectral images of scientific investigations of cellular structure, and sometimes mere impressions of marine landscapes, the reality of which is made fabulously present by small spheres of beryl aquamarine and aquamarine scattered across the surface (their very name seeming to conjure up the reality of the scenes depicted).

Drawing on botany, physics and chemistry, Dobler offers a representation of the natural world in which these sciences are not merely the means for investigating the totality of being but also sources of sense data in their own right - a contribution to our imagination, to our perception of the real.

The essentially abstract structuralism of Dobler’s work is well illustrated by the minimalist pieces of the 80s, in which two-dimensional geometric surfaces are enclosed by guidelines that define both the area itself and its position in space. This distinctive use of line, together with vibrant mobility within each piece, has in the later works evolved into a sort of voluble baroque - which can serve either to frame a flower, branch or sprig, or to bring them into being.

Though structuralism also predominates in his work, Winfried Kruger has followed a very different course towards the expansive world of Nature. In effect, his works of 2000-2002 capture a biological reality through the very physical intensity of forms in which matter seems to achieve germination. Though there are no actual flowers here, her structures are so powerfully handled that they seem to reveal the pulse of organic life, ready to burst forth in a clot of material or a protuberance of form that has not yet become recognisable as a flower or fruit. His depiction of flowers is expressed with particular force in the 2003 series of cactus flowers, where the work seems to be an exploration - and manifestation - of the flower motif rather than a sensitive rendition of the beauty of a particular flower.

The series of silver rings with coloured enamels and various stones present the artist with the opportunity to run through a series of exercises in the use of form and materials; and the results achieved are all the more effective for arising from modulations of one basic format. The circle of the ring is surmounted by a central leaf, out of which arises a sequence of smaller leaves; and in an apparently causal manner, amidst these nestles a flower or fruit. Each piece is therefore the expression of the infinite possible variety in the polymorphism of nature. The richness of the material is embodied in both colour and structure, and varies from flower to flower or fruit to fruit; in some cases, there is a more complex rendition, which becomes almost zoomorphic in form. This is a very rich world, consisting of the endless variations made possible by the use of a limited number of elements; and the basic component is a leaf that fattens, thins out, folds and curves, extends and reaches upwards, with the surface varying from the smooth to the rough, from the opalescent to the vitreous, from the enamelled to the gem-studded. Repetition becomes wealth through the continual variations in colour of the same forms, and the transformations that this change in colour brings to the material of the piece. This series of work is most extraordinary when seen as a whole, with the rings seeming to be a musical variation upon a theme, in which motifs are developed, echoed and reiterated. A single original idea is the source for an entire universe that continues to grow and change but remains linked to that initial canon from which the variations flow.

It is the fauna and the flora of the natural world that Karen Pontoppidan focuses on, combining them with a vast array of objects. Her delicate yet precise images, outlined in milky white enamel, seem to have been created by a painter’s brush - indeed, by an engraver’s burin - with the lines being incised in the materials in one flowing gesture that betrays not the slightest hesitation. Exotic or domestic animals appear together with delightful desert islands and palm trees, boats (sailing or running aground), sketches of everyday objects, details of popular religion. She focuses special interest on the world of the sea, capturing the movement of waves with simple parallel lines, and rendering images of old ships with anchors and cruciform masts. It might seem rather childish if there was not that powerful evocation arising from memories that are all the more precise for being given free rein to trace out the past. Memory here leaves aside the exhaustion and torment of its complex striving to emerge from the depths, and finds itself in an image that is pure, fresh and intact. For all its synthesis of form and simplicity of line, this Arcadian universe has the expressive power of an objet that has re-emerged from the darkness of oblivion. Once there image was a happy simple world, and this is what the artist shows us, using the most minimal of expressive means that nevertheless reveal her full intensity of expression and mastery of technique. The whiteness of the enamels surface is often enriched with white beads scattered across the surface of silver and gold rings and brooches; and that candour is furthered highlighted by the very simplicity of the images of things and animals, which - at one and the same time - are a part of memory and nostalgia. The young artist offers us a desired Golden Age; and the roughly-shaped form of the rings and brooches is in clear contrast to the precision of line used in circumscribing a vacuum whose reality is all the more concrete for being indicated with the most minimalist of means. Never evanescent, incomplete and simply indicative, the figures are present in a sharpness of definition that offers a precise visual account of a lost world.

Marianne Schliwinski chooses to use fragments of Venetian glass, isolating this shard of a once-intact reality as the archaeological core of a composition involving various materials: paper, lacquers, iron, coral, different-shaped beads. She engages in a ritualistic process intended to exalt the very material of glass, lifting it free of that functionality to which, even when employed as a means of artistic expression, it seems to be condemned.

Created through the transformation of sands and various carbonates, glass can vary from pure transparency to stratification of colour, and its magic lies in the fact that the light within it seems to emerge from an indefinite depth; whether limpid or cloudy, opaque or shiny, the light of glass is ineffable.

Schliwinski creates a series of flowers using fragments of old glass from Venetian workshops. These marvellous, life-like blooms look as if they have just been picked; but the subtle vibrations of colour within the petals and bulbs reveals a sophistication that is at work in them; memory and stylistic echoes here have turned these flowers into something discovered rather than something created.
And these echoes continue in a series of columns, fragments of old bottles for perfumes and unguents, in which the sediments of glass create gleams and shades of colour that seem on the point of evaporating.

Often the fragments are grouped together in casual correlations, in which colour and light combine to create purely abstract compositions. And there are wonderful stratifications in which one glimpses images imprisoned within the glass, partially breaking through to the surface. As fragments of cigarette or matchboxes, they underline their own absurdly contemporary status as Pop Art images, at the same time as their incorporation within the magma of the glass turns them into archaeological finds that are only now ‘coming to light’.

© Graziella Folchini Grassetto 2004

English translation: Gus Barker

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Contemporary Jewellery: Georg Dobler, Winfried Krüger, Karen Pontoppidan, Marianne Schliwinski. Exhibition. Graziella Folchini Grassetto. Padova: curated and edited by Studio GR·20.
Georg Dobler. Brooch: Composizione con registrazione scientifica. Argento. Georg Dobler
Brooch: Composizione con registrazione scientifica
© By the author. Read Copyright.
Winfried Krüger. Brooch: Untitled. Argento, smalto. Winfried Krüger
Brooch: Untitled
Argento, smalto
© By the author. Read Copyright.
Karen Pontoppidan. Ring: Untitled. Argento, smalto. Karen Pontoppidan
Ring: Untitled
Argento, smalto
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Marianne Schliwinski. Brooch: Untitled. Argento, vetro veneziano, serigrafia su lamina di stagno, carta, corallo. Marianne Schliwinski
Brooch: Untitled
Argento, vetro veneziano, serigrafia su lamina di stagno, carta, corallo
© By the author. Read Copyright.