Enamel at Schmuck 2010

Article  /  JessicaTurrell   Review   Fairs   CriticalThinking
Published: 18.03.2010
Jessica Turrell Jessica Turrell
Jessica Turrell
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Having recently returned from Munich I thought it might be interesting to expand on my previous entry by discussing some of the innovative enamel work that I observed during my tour of the numerous exhibitions staged across the city as part of ‘Schmuck 2010’.
Gallery Biro hosted a solo show of the work of Daniel Kruger, a large proportion of which featured the use of enamel. I was particularly drawn to a series of brooches made up of numerous circles of bold colour, brought to life by the use of carefully constructed mechanisms that allow the discs to move independently of each other. Kruger studied under Hermann Jünger at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich and is himself now professor of Jewellery at the Burg Giebichenstein University for Art and Design, Halle. I would assume that there is a direct correlation between Kruger’s engagement with enamel and the amount of experimental enamel work being produced by the jewellery students at Halle.

At Galerie Isabella Hund, in Point and Line, Bettina Dittlmann exhibited her complex and delicate iron wire and enamel structures alongside the collaborative collection foreverrings on which she works with partner Michael Jank. Point and Line also featured a new body of work by Dittlmann, simple but dramatic oval forms made from acrylic sheet each the surface of each bearing a pattern of incised marks reminiscent of her three-dimensional wire structures. Another grouping of Dittlmann’s enamel work, in the form of a collection of iron wire rings with red enamel, was to be found in the Danner Rotunda of the Pinakothek der Moderne in a new display curated for the occasion of Schmuck 2010 by Karl Fritsch.

I was very interested in a group of brooches by Martin Papcun on show at the Glass in Czech Jewellery exhibition. Papcun had fused ground and graded glass frit onto the surface of delicate architectural structures made from stainless steel wire. Whilst not strictly enamel these pieces have the familiarity of glass fused onto metal. The artist describes this body of work as a dialogue with space, light and shadow.

Flashes of sensual colour were provided by a variety of materials including enamel and pigments in the beautiful work of Italian jewellery artist Giampaolo Babetto in his major solo show staged in the magnificent setting of the circular balcony of the Pinakothek der Moderne.

To my mind one of the most resolved uses of enamel I saw during my time in Munich was the work of German metalsmith Christine Graf. She exhibited jewellery-scale work at her studio as part of the exhibition Dear James. Across the city at the International Trade Fair a group of her larger scale vessel-forms were on display at the Galerie Ra stand. Graf uses fine copper mesh and underfired enamel to create three-dimensional forms and jewellery that are a sensitive exploration of colour, form and surface. I was able to handle the jewellery on display in Graf’s studio and doing do revealed cleverly constructed frameworks and supporting structures and her close attention to otherwise unseen detail.

It was a great pleasure to finally meet Fabrizio Tridenti with whom I have had long and interesting email discussions about his use of the painted surface; I had contacted him after initially mistaking his surfaces for vitreous enamel. In a similar vein it was intriguing to see the work of a number of jewellers whose past work had featured enamel but who have latterly abandoned it in favour of paint and pigments, but more of this in a future post.

On show at the Treasure Room Australia at Gallery Handwerk was the work of New Zealander Kirsten Haydon who currently teaches at RMIT University, Melbourne. Haydon’s teaching and research focus is on enamel processes and the group of pieces on display form part of her ongoing engagement with the landscape of Antarctica. Haydon employs reflector beads, more commonly used for road markings, which she fuses into an enamelled surface. In some instances these pieces included photographic imagery, presumably of Antarctica, veiled by a layer of reflector beads that give the surface a frosted icy appearance.

Finally on display at the main Schmuck 2010 exhibition as part of Handwerk & Design was the work of two artists who combine enamel with natural and manmade materials. Natalya Pinchuk creates jewellery with exotic floral references, combining the natural and the artificial to create work that is initially seductive but on closer inspection has a rather menacing quality. Whereas Pinchuk’s work is highly coloured Schaupp’s pieces feature a more muted palette and includes the use of funnel like wire structures, both flattened and three-dimensional, that serve to draw the viewer into the work. Whilst the two artists are producing aesthetically very different work both create jewellery that employs a juxtaposition of the natural and the manmade to create work that is curious and slightly unsettling.

The nature of my research means that my approach to an event such as Schmuck is to analyze the work on display in terms of its material content and technique. I take this approach by necessity but it is of concern to me that this focus on enamel can lead to a rather reductive evaluation of jewellery that is about so much more than material and technique. Again this is a subject to which I plan to return at a later date, so if you have something to contribute I would be very pleased to hear from you.

About the author

Jessica Turrell is a jeweller and enamel artist currently undertaking a practice-led research fellowship that investigates the place of enamel in contemporary jewellery practice. The fellowship is based at the Enamel Research unit of the University of the West of England, Bristol.