Interview with Linda van Niekerk

Interview  /  Artists
Published: 10.09.2015
Interview with Linda van Niekerk.
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I admire minimalist design and although I do not see the need for rigidity in applying design 'rules' I do find myself attempting to make my work as simple and fluid as possible - irrespective of the idea I wish to convey.
Do you think that jewellery is being standardized? 
Probably.  Art and design usually follow trends identified in retrospect by curators and historians.
What seems evident when reviewing the work on Klimt02, however, is that the ‘standard’ of work within this international group of artists is very wide but that it is almost impossible to identify where in the world the artist is based by simply looking at the work. 
Perhaps quality of design and making transcends borders rather than being ‘standard’ as in ‘the same’ or mundane.

What is there of local and universal in your artistic work?        
I think that the local – or a sense of place – is evident in my work because of my heritage and my environment.  I was born in South Africa and immigrated to Sydney, Australia.  I am now based in the Huon Valley in the south of Tasmania.  One third of Tasmania is a world heritage area. Living and working in this beautiful part of the world encourages contemplation of the natural world in all its forms and influences both the ideas and the materials in my work.  And I think that my African heritage is reflected in my designs.  
I admire minimalist design and although I do not see the need for rigidity in applying design 'rules' I do find myself attempting to make my work as simple and fluid as possible - irrespective of the idea I wish to convey. Perhaps this is universal?

Neckpiece:  Eagle Adrift Torque Tasmanian Wilderness Driftwood & Sterling silver 2014, Image: Peter Whyte  
What do you expect when exposing your work to the public (for example with an exhibition)?
From myself:
My desire is for my work to encourage the wearer to be ‘bold, proud and walk tall’.  My first test is to ensure a piece can do this for me.  I try to take all my new work ‘for a walk’ both to test it for fit and stability but also to experience responses to the work.     
From the public/collectors:
As a jewellery designer, irrespective of the idea I would like to communicate, the most important shift in perception is dependent entirely upon the reaction when my work is worn.  One of my biggest thrills is when other creative people like my work - that's a huge compliment.
What I would ask of those viewing my work:  Please, please provide feedback.  Obviously, acquiring the work is feedback of a very positive nature, but I would love to hear whatever it is that potential collectors think of my endeavors – the idea, the execution, and if the piece is wearable.  Be brave; tell me what you think

Are other areas besides the jewellery, present in your work?
The idea of contemporary jewellery with a 'message' is certainly not new.  However it sometimes seems as if the ability to wear a piece is sacrificed to convey a point of view. 
In 2009 I attempted to balance a message of protest with wearable design with my “Forest” rings:

Left:  Ring:  Forest Shadow , Tasmanian Myrtle with burn finish & sterling silver 2009
Right:  Ring: Forest Light, Tasmanian Huon Pine & sterling silver, 2009 
Images: Peter Whyte

The plain, beautiful wood of the Huon Pine ball (Forest Light) represents the pristine natural beauty of the Tasmanian wilderness.  The burned Myrtle ball (Forest Shadow) represents the angst many of us feel when ancient forests are clear felled and burned to make way for plantation forests for cheap paper.  A more thoughtful and balanced approach to forestry practices would greatly reduce disharmony in Tasmania.  And the pieces are made wearable with a simple double ring base designed to hold them comfortably ‘balanced’ on the hand.
The last work, book, film, city that has moved me was...
Because I now live in splendid isolation on a beautiful hill, I think I was more able to fully appreciate the vitality, drama and surprising friendliness of New York.

A place, space, country whose creativity surprises me...
Unashamed to parochially name David Walsh’s MONA (the Museum of Old and New Art) in Hobart Tasmania.  Since its launch in 2011 MONA has become a benchmark for judging the museum and gallery experience – internationally.

Is there any designer, jeweller, artist, you appreciate a lot?
I particularly appreciate these women who produce work that is universal, challenging and beautiful:  
Australian Artists: Fiona Hall, representing Australia at the 2015 Venice Biennale; Janet Laurence, specialist in site-specific installations; and the late Dorothy Napangardi, internationally acclaimed Australian Aboriginal artist.
Designer, jewellery artist and curator, Australian based Susan Cohn and British based Architect, designer and educator Zaha Hadid.

What piece or work has given you the most satisfaction?
Although my work has evolved in the past decade (and continues to do so) the body of work assembled for my ’10 Years On’ exhibition last year gave me the satisfaction that there is a signature that transcends fad or fashion. 

Do you read Jewellery Magazines? What is your source to get information?
Limited.  I visit art galleries, keep up to date with Klimt02, and find Pinterest an interesting research resource. 

Do you discuss your work with other jewellery artists or any other person?
My partner is an architect and we share a studio.  He very generously (and bravely) gives me his honest opinion on new designs.

What is your first thought when you hear the word Future? What do you expect for?
I feel a vague notion of angst for the future.  I think the world is in a troubled place at the moment and I am concerned that how I now chose to spend my time is a distraction.  I hope that feeling good about wearing a piece of my work might help to make the wearer feel just a bit brighter.