Minimalism. Exploring the Essence of Form and Space in Contemporary Jewellery. Spotlight Artworks by Klimt02

Article  /  CriticalThinking   History   Collecting
Published: 11.03.2024
Minimalism. Exploring the Essence of Form and Space in Contemporary Jewellery. Spotlight Artworks by Klimt02.
Klimt02, Cécile Maes
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It was in 1965 that the term 'Minimal Art' appeared in the United States through the insights of philosopher Richard Wollheim, sparking a transformative artistic revolution that resonated deeply within the realm of jewellery design.

In this article, we present a concise selection of pieces, each encapsulating the essence of minimalism and offering a nuanced exploration of the key principles that define this influential artistic movement.
Minimalism emerged as a significant departure from the emotional and symbolic art of the 1940s-1950s. Rather than complexity and exuberance, it embraced simplicity and common forms, striving for the purest expression with maximum efficiency. Delving into geometry, monochrome, and seriality, the movement echoed Mies van der Rohe's quote, 'Less is more.' Beyond visual simplicity, Minimalism redefined space by blurring the lines between interior and exterior, exploring the physical boundaries of perception.

Let's remember again that Minimalism emerged in the 1960s-70s, an era of artistic, musical, and literary transformations marked by the political engagement of the younger generation. Artists aimed to distance themselves from conventional jewellery, seen as outdated and bourgeois, to make avant-garde pieces free from norms and infused with a unique dynamism.
We say goodbye to unnecessary things, embracing a more radical approach to question matters beyond mere ornamentation.

Among the figures who embraced this aesthetic and philosophical shift, the Dutch duo formed by Emmy Van Leersum and Gijs Bakker holds a crucial position. Pioneers in using unconventional metals, such as aluminium and steel, they made wearable sculptures with geometric forms and clear lines. Their radical approach redefined the traditional boundaries of jewellery placement on the body, exploring interactions and fragmenting the body into two, thus creating a new space to invest in.

Gijs Bakker. Neckpiece: Scholderpiece, 1967. Aluminium

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The development of minimal art is primarily evident in sculpture, representing the culmination of formal trends observed in early 20th-century painting. The square emerges as a fundamental unit, symbolising the pursuit of artistic expression reduced to its essential components, highlighting the purity of geometry through regular arrangements of squares.
Giampaolo Babetto, a prominent figure of the Padua School, exemplifies this evolution remarkably. His works, especially the Cubes necklace, stand out for the skilful use of modular units, almost mechanical, where the visual transition from 2D to 3D becomes particularly striking. Each element in the composition emanates precision akin to the quest for artistic purity.

Giampaolo Babetto: Necklace: Cubes, 1977. 18 kt gold

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All the work of the silversmith David Huycke looks like he is guided by the pursuit of the perfect form. This quest is expressed not only in the meticulous creation with his expert hands but also in the artist's desire to feel it as a spectator. The force and natural clarity emanating from the artist's pieces are palpable. When discussing his work, David defines the presentation of objects to the world through their contours, forms, and colours. Through monumental basic forms rooted in the laws of nature and geometry, the artist achieves a particular essence of balance between form and inner space using a palette ranging from white to black through all shades of grey. This dialogue between emptiness and fullness, interior and exterior, reflects the fundamental concerns of minimalist artists skillfully injected by David Huycke into his relationship with the object and material. Each creation becomes a visual and sensory exploration of the interaction between form and space, transcending limits to create captivating harmony.

David Huycke. Piece: Empty Square, 2003. Silver
Collection Röhsska Museum Gothenburg and Collection Deutsches Goldschmiedehaus.

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The Nippo-Italian duo of Yoko Takirai and Pietro Pellitteri finds deep inspiration in the concepts of space, light, and forms. The brooch Respiro III (created for Melencolia or the Saturnine Nature of the Artist, curated by Nichka Marobin) captivates with its harmony of balance. The contours define the square form, serving as a frame, while a form appears through the steel mesh, which transforms the piece into a bas-relief that engages in a dialogue between the inner and outer spatial boundaries.
Yoko Takirai and Pietro Pellitteri. Brooch: Respiro III, 2022. Silver 925 and hand-hammered micro stainless steel mesh

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Empar Juanes' brooches Liviana exude a near otherworldly purity, making it quite a challenge to fathom that the artist devotes hours to cutting immense stone blocks with accurate precision. The artist takes a great risk and carefully and meditatively carves the sone, pushing the material boundaries before they gracefully yield. This process delves into the realms of resistance and tension through gentle forms, each marked by the fundamental significance of the void.

For Minimalists, emptiness is not merely an absence; it's an integral element contributing to the unity of the composition, ensuring a harmonious blend between its various parts. As an artist and architect, Empar Juanes sculpts portable masterpieces – spaces that come to life through contour, light, and emptiness between the wearer and the observer. Her work and process of making embody a poetic journey of simplification to the essentials, unveiling the stone in a new light.

Empar Juanes Sanchis. Brooches: Liviana, 2019. Agate, white gold. Photo by: Look at the bird

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The Catalan designer, artist, and jeweller Marc Monzó, renowned for his minimalist and conceptual approach, employs clean and simple forms to express complex ideas. He assimilates craftsmanship as a foundation when discussing his approach, considering it the beginning point to explore various subjects. Like an observer of the world, his jewellery serves as tools that allow a glimpse into his visions and intentions. The perfect balance between form and concept in Marc Monzó's work achieves a unique precision in understanding the concept and directly interpreting what is visible.

Marc Monzó. Bracelet: Eclipse 2022. Gold plated silver

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To conclude this selection, I want to highlight the work that, in my opinion, fully embodies the philosophy of minimalism. From the Surface series by Herman Hermsen.
By precisely incising a metal sheet, he creates a classic jewellery set where the form rigorously follows function. The piece's beauty lies in the utility and intelligence of the fabrication and design of each element, avoiding any excess and unnecessary components. Everything you can see is there, without any frills. That's all there is, and everything is here.

Herman Hermsen: The Golden brooch, from the series From the Surface, 1992. Gold

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About the author

Cécile Maes graduated from ENSA Limoges in design, specialising in Contemporary Jewellery. Her interest in jewellery grows from the human relationships games it involves. Social object, jewellery creates narratives and becomes a sign. Investigating classical typologies, her work is a re-interpretation where historical references and everyday exploration connect ideas to speak about jewellery, the reasons why we wear it and the meanings we give to it.

Instagram: cilce_maes