Ellen Maurer Zilioli
- Ellen Maurer Zilioli
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The present text is an excerpt of the main article at the book Private Confessions. Drawing & Jewellery by Ellen Maurer Zilioli.
Drawing is [...] the first visible thing of the form of the thought, the changing point from the invisible powers to the visible thing. / Joseph Beuys
This is the first time a jewellery exhibition has been devoted to drawing, thus focusing on a multifaceted subject that has hitherto been entirely underestimated. This pivotal - and novel - approach consists first of all in observing a drawing independently of the jewellery, and in this way shedding clarifying light on it. What links the drawing with the jewellery is in any case a very exciting relationship, which is not restricted to design but unfolds a dialogue with multiple ramifications.
In 1980 the Swiss Mustermesse organised a special show, Perspective 80, dedicated to sixteen artists who were ‘for the most part unknown’ but whose names had been submitted by ‘a panel of progressive galleries’. The proposed artists included the likes of John Armleder, Tony Cragg – and Manfred Nisslmüller. What this event showed above all else was the state of affairs prevailing in the field of drawing, its expansion and its interaction with a wide range of reflections and materials. Although the echo of that event has remained peripheral for our scene, it nonetheless succeeded in highlighting trends and possibilities for an inspiring alliance between categories and fields of expression and in setting an example with its unprejudiced linkage of the two. Without wanting to belabour the point, I should like to mention that goldsmiths’ drawings share important parameters with ‘fine-arts’ drawings.
The present show, therefore, views itself rather like building a bridge to anchor more clearly the change in perspective to art in jewellery. Drawing usually has, and continues to be, regarded ‘merely’ as an accompaniment to, and clarification of, an object. Now, however, we are concerned with concentrating on reversing this relationship. The drawing moves to centre stage while jewellery becomes a sideshow.
- The catalytic or seismographic role in the context of a comprehensive change and development falls to the drawing. It is elevated to the status of an authentic and unadulterated document of its creator’s mental make-up, as Richard Serra makes his case for its function: ‘Drawing is always an incarnation of how artists think.’
No encyclopaedic compendium, no chronological sequence, no complete inventory catalogue will be offered. The claim made by the drawing stems above all from its location at the beginning of the artistic deed even though it joins prior events ex post facto.
Since the 1960s the medium of art drawing has been explored in all its modalities. Its historical conditioning as a subordinate provider in the sense of planning and study is being reinterpreted and detached from a debate which emphasises its elemental qualities – primarily its provisional character, its immediacy and directness, its spontaneity and intimacy, discontinuity and incompleteness – in a switch to the positive side, the factors inherent in the creative act. Re-evaluation and expansion of the medium are occurring in parallel with a general expansion and fusion of genres and disciplines, with the growing importance of a ‘new relation between drawing and touch and drawing as intellectual content.’
The idea as such, the origination process, the creative impulse, all considerations and inklings of a visualisation being set in motion, gain autonomous valency and aesthetic potency. The catalytic or seismographic role in the context of a comprehensive change and development falls to the drawing. It is elevated to the status of an authentic and unadulterated document of its creator’s mental make-up, as Richard Serra makes his case for its function: ‘Drawing is always an incarnation of how artists think.’
Comparable professions have come from numerous distinguished exponents of contemporary art, including, for instance, Rachel Whiteread, who recapitulates: ‘They [the drawings] are a more discrete part of my practice. [...] They are a way of thinking.’ Or Tacita Dean: ‘It is as if my frame of mind is analogue when I draw.’
When we investigate the drawing done by artists who work in jewellery, it, too, provides insights into discussions and contents that have hitherto been held secret or attracted little notice, indeed have quite often been underestimated by the authors themselves and are to a certain extent private, and it leads us, as it were – as the title suggests – to ‘private confessions’.
- What links the drawing with the jewellery is in any case a very exciting relationship, which is not restricted to design but unfolds a dialogue with multiple ramifications.
A spark leaps out from the sketchy note to set things in motion, to keep vision and reality in suspense, to guarantee openness and immersion at once. This note functions as a transitory element, as a ‘pacemaker’, and even becomes a metaphor for transition, a tool of transformation in itself, serves as the driver and imago of innovation, retaining traces of an elemental ‘incipience’, rewriting a place of overlayerings, mixtures and redistribution in an ‘expanded field’ (Rosalind Krauss) of working in art. The note tells of freedom and becoming. For this very reason, the field of drawing is also especially suitable for capturing certain aspects of jewellery.
The panorama of our material embraces a broad range of sketches and pictures, which are more or less orientated to final execution, and, interlocked with that, sketches and pictures that, however, participate in the aforementioned evolution and settled within that very debate which identifies and judges the drawing as the sign of artistic autonomy and authenticity.
While the trend discussed here was beginning to show up in the arts during the twentieth century, a new departure took off in jewellery, a symptomatic coincidence. Following their personal bent and biographical circumstances, Hermann Jünger and Bruno Martinazzi, two of the first auteurs, fostered from the outset an inclination to drawing and painting. The oeuvres of the two auteurs are steeped in the sculptural interest that underlies the whole process of jewellery-making, suffuses it and is reflected in it. Jünger was fascinated by the dialogue between the incorporeal and the palpable. He appreciated excursions into two-dimensionality, roaming about between purposively developing form and hastily jotting down playful, seemingly trivial, unplanned shorthand symbols. Jünger’s cosmos lives from this stress ratio. Mood, desire and lack of it, plumbing and feeling out what should be striven for, the much cited ‘additive’ principle of his compositions: all this as well as concrete sources of stimuli from still-life, landscape, artistic intellectual and spiritual affinities can be read from his drawings.
Martinazzi’s position is the result of perusing philosophical writings. In masterly drawings, he has created a theatrical stage for his favourite themes. His allegorical repertory appears on paper in loose arrangements, pointedly represented in isolated monumentality. We can easily follow how the focus shifts back and forth between abstraction and nuanced observation.
Claus Bury’s work in jewellery until 1979 was accompanied by structural designs that assimilated sources of inspiration from contemporary trends in the visual arts. Techno-aesthetics, meticulous fine mechanics, the poetic atmosphere of scenic motifs and witty ingeniousness reveal links to Peter Chang’s works of the 1960s although Chang at that time shifted his focus to combining technoid elements with organic external forms. An echo of the Arts and Crafts movement seemed to be reverberating. Bury, on the other hand, sketches gossamer-light, almost translucent linear views of surreal figurative inventions. Only occasionally does he accentuate individual parts with vehement hatching or emending pre-existing structures, liberties that put a damper on stringency. Anton Cepka, another who tends to be a planning draughtsman, is inspired by aerospace engineering and space technology. Machine precision and romanticism inform everything he produces. Structures, lattice-work, and abstract geometric profiles fuse with diaphanous handling of surfaces as if he wanted to tone down the montage-like character of his work and subvert it with atmosphere. This approach lends the sketch aesthetic autonomy and sovereignty.
The affinities between text and drawing fascinate quite a few exponents of our genre, to the extent that the discourse effectively reaches much further back than we might expect. The interpretation of writing as either a gesture on an equal footing with drawing, as Hermann Jünger suggested, or as a phenomenon concomitant with and corresponding to it accompanies our research in a wide range of variations.
- The need for contrast, for being able to commute back and forth, which in turn opens up variables in expression for the goldsmith, also derives from the fact that the burden of a trade thus contaminated forces him to resort to subversion.
‘Poems are my prompter’, confesses Hubertus von Skal. Writing, drawing, poetry: memorably elemental statements are situated alongside jewellery to form together with it a tableau, a ‘psychogram’ of sorts, in which arguments, aspects, facets and nuances are unfolded in his reflections on the subject of the ring. The external dimensions - 10.5 x 14.5 cm - the postcard, painted, stamped, written on, even at times perforated. ‘I want to draw and not be a draughtsman.’ Consequently, these aphorisms and sketches form ‘families’; they fit together to make a grid and in total present information about the path taken by the auteur.
Roland Barthes believes ‘switching from one medium to another’ offers ‘a writer or artist with the possibility of “escaping the constraints of a medium that is perceived as historically compromised”.’ It is not difficult to trace a similarly discrediting effect in the historical heritage of jewellery. Accordingly, the need for contrast, for being able to commute back and forth, which in turn opens up variables in expression for the goldsmith, also derives from the fact that the burden of a trade thus contaminated forces him to resort to subversion.
What has often been called the ‘additive principle’ when applied to Hermann Jünger could therefore just as easily be classified as ‘dialogic’. With a view to the current situation in the contemporary arts, we may also diagnose an increase in hybrid forms. The hybridisation and dissolution of boundaries between genres and media turn out to be the natural consequence of communicative changes that are taking place in our era. It is more than plausible that drawing and jewellery should join them as autarkic forces. The linkage of text, drawing and image to form a synthesis belongs to that process – without the necessity of legibility, without directives on decoding.
The drawing as an art field that is, for the auteur in jewellery, historically uncompromised proves the adequacy of its function as a hybrid medium that catapults jewellery into direct contact with current disputes and trajectories. In its mediating position, the drawing is symptomatic of the opening that contemporary auteur jewellery is undergoing. More attention should be devoted to it. It should be understood as a seismographic indicator of the system; hence its significance and importance is to be acknowledged.
Art necessarily establishes a relation between the artist and an imaginary reader, viewer, or listener; it is inherently dialogical. Therefore, all visual art implies a spectator, even when that other is part of the self, the viewing self. / Siri Hustvedt
About the author
Dr. Ellen Maurer Zilioli born in 1956. Studied art history, history and anthropology at Munich and Basel Universities, taking her MA in 1984. From 1987–1990 lived in Berlin, where she organised the International Hannah Höch Symposium in 1989.
She took her doctorate at Munich University in 1991 (dissertation: "Jenseits fester Grenzen. Das malerische Werk von Hannah Höch"). Between 1993–1995 assistant at the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen, the Staatliche Graphische Sammlung, the Neue Sammlung and the Bayerisches Nationalmuseum. In 1996 taught at Passau University. 1996–1998 Academic employee of the Bayerische Staatsgemäldesammlungen as well as the Neue Sammlung, State Museum of Applied Arts and Design, Munich. From 1998–2005 curator at the Neue Sammlung, Design in der Pinakothek der Moderne, Munich. 2000–2005 Member of the Council of the Deutschlandportal of the Federal Republic of Germany.
Since 2005 living in Italy and Germany as a freelance curator, author, art consultant, representing international fine arts and jewellery arts.
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