Martina Dempf at Preziosa 2017

Interview  /  Artists   BehindTheScenes
Published: 01.05.2017
Martina Dempf Martina Dempf
Viktorija Domarkaite
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Martina Dempf. Ring: FingerFinger, 2015. Wood, silver.. Photo by: Sebastian Ahlers. Martina Dempf
Ring: FingerFinger, 2015
Wood, silver.
Photo by: Sebastian Ahlers
© By the author. Read Copyright.

With this program, all jewellery makers, wearers and collectors are invited to broaden their perception of jewellery. Preziosa will connect worlds of jewellery research by direct dialogue, exceeding the limits of the virtual world of the internet. We will learn by meeting each other in person, sharing our ideas and understanding of old and new jewellery concepts, in vital discussions with real persons and seeing real objects.
What are the main things that should attract people to attend this year Preziosa scene?
Let me start with the venue where Preziosa will take place this year. The places chosen for the event are very promising and exciting, as they will present the exhibitions and lectures on jewellery within an exceptional environment of great cultural history, off the beaten tracks of touristic Florence.
A highlight of Florence art and antiquity collections is the Bellini Museum, which was established by the family in the 18th century. This Museum as well as Botticelli Gallery and Palazzo Coveri Gallery provide a perfect background for the Preziosa exhibitions.

Tasso Mattar, Ring 1989, Mother of pearl, 18ct. gold.
Photo by Tasso Mattar.
On exhibition at: Nacarme. An obsession by mother of pearl by Tasso Mattar and Danni Schwaag at the Bellini Museum.

The main attraction of Preziosa is of course the wide range of selected artists. We have the opportunity to see the great master of narrative jewellery, Robert Baines (Australia), reflecting antique collections through his contemporary work. Sybille Umlauf (Germany) also reflects antique techniques in her excellent iron jewellery inlayed with gold. Arata Fuchi (Japan/Italy) re-interprets an ancient South Korean metal technology, and the exhibition iNÁCARME! by Tasso Mattar (Germany/Spain) and Danni Schwaag (Germany) challenges our concept of nature in jewellery.
LOD Metallformgivning Sweden present seven artists with contemporary silver works revising the appearance of traditional products. Another promising surprise will be the exhibition of the ARIA gallery Teheran, Iran, with works by young jewellery artists. This exhibition is curated by Kevin Murray from Australia, accompanied by a lecture shedding light on the new emerging jewellery scene in non-western cultures.

Baharak Omidfah, Ring
Part of: Contemporary jewelry works from Aria Gallery at the Bellini Museum.

The 2017 edition of Preziosa Young had more than 185 applications. The large number of participants with excellent work made the final selection very  hard. The finalists from Taiwan, China and Israel/Germany astonish us with their research into diverse traditional and contemporary materials and techniques, transformed into highly aesthetic objects asking questions of our time.
On top of this impressive array of exhibitions, lectures on the latest research into jewellery at the contemplative Santo Spirito Cloister will encourage us to explore a more transcendent idea of what contemporary art jewellery from different cultural backgrounds can tell us today. International speakers, such as Inger Wästberg (Sweden), Shruti Agrawal (India/Italy), Robert Baines and Kevin Murray (Australia), Tasso Mattar (Spain, Germany), Maria Cristina Bergesio and Maria Laura La Mantia (Italy),  Roberta Bernabei (Italy/GB) and I express diverse perspectives on the topic of jewellery and adornment.
Robert Baines, Kevin Murray, Tasso Mattar and Martina Dempf will offer workshops along with the lectures and discussions.
What positive aspects future participants can acquire from the event? 
With this program, all jewellery makers, wearers and collectors are invited to broaden their perception of jewellery. Preziosa will connect worlds of jewellery research by direct dialogue, exceeding the limits of the virtual world of the internet. We will learn by meeting each other in person, sharing our ideas and understanding of old and new jewellery concepts, in vital discussions with real persons and seeing real objects.
I remember what Preziosa 2015 meant to me, when I entered into conversation with artists about their work, or on the exhibition “African Affairs” which I curated. Besides conversations it was interesting to view the Indian and Italian artisans demonstrating their techniques. The organizers of  Preziosa ensure that all participants can meet each other. The event connects worlds in a true sense. I continued to keep the contacts I made, and, for example, I invited one of the artists for a well received solo exhibition in my gallery in Berlin in 2016.
Since this year main focus of FJW is a dialogue and the confrontation between tradition and contemporary research what are the outcomes You are expecting? 
Traditional  and  contemporary jewellery has often been seen as a contradiction. In my experience as a contemporary jeweller and a social anthropologist, this is a very western perception.  It took us time to open our mind to jewellery concepts with a traditional history. This jewellery was classified as ethnic or folkloristic, as it was not identified with a certain maker/artist, and thought to be without individual expression. By the way, the Jewish gold- and silversmiths of Yemen for example always signed their works.
Jewellery has always been a medium for cultural identity, and in this respect it has been perfectly understood by the people making and wearing it. Contemporary jewellery transcends this local heritage by creating a more global understanding. But it is at risk of losing cultural identity, which certainly has again become more important over the last years.
I see a tendency in contemporary jewellery to re-interpret local heritage in a modern artistic way, and the young generation is especially active in this respect. You will see some examples of this in the Preziosa Young exhibition, also in Arata Fuchi ’s art concept and techniques. And I guess the works of the artists from Iran will show us unexpected interpretations in this respect.
Preziosa has triggered this discussion for a long time now, as the Le Arti Orafe (LAO) school has never seen a contradiction in traditional and contemporary jewellery education, in techniques, artistic concepts and design.

Le Arti Orafe Students Tang Yansui and Bai Xinyu from China.

I expect that this year will bring forth discussions on tradition and contemporary research and how they relate to one other. The different cultural approaches to jewellery will further open our minds, by realising the nowness of material, technique and concept.
What are the main differences between Preziosa and f. e. Munich jewellery week? 
Let me start with the Munich Jewellery Week. It got this attribute as “Jewellery Week” only recently. But already in 1959 an exhibition of Europäischer Schmuck und edles Gerät (European Jewellery and Precious Objects) was started by Herbert Hofmann at Munich’s international trade and crafts fair. No other jewellery institution has such a long history and continuity and it’s been the melting pot for contemporary jewellers since then. In recent years many private galleries and other jewellery initiatives have contributed to the event. In this way it has become the place to go for jewellers and collectors. At the same time, it has also become quite confusing, as too many events and exhibitions are in competition with one another.
Contrary to this mega event, Preziosa has much more of the character of research and study, focusing on a certain theme each time. The conceptional character of Preziosa, created by Giò Carbone and his team at LAO, gives the participants the chance to concentrate on a certain discussion within the broad field of jewellery without getting lost. Exhibitions, lectures and workshops are designed around this concept.
The Florence Jewellery Week is not meant to be compared with Munich. All events are organized by LAO, and no other jewellery institutions or galleries join the event with self-organized exhibitions like in Munich. It gives a platform to the young generation of jewellers worldwide with the Preziosa Young contest. The growing number of applications reflects the importance of the exhibition. The concept of bringing young jewellers and masters into direct dialogue with each other on the same level works easily within a smaller event. “Klein aber fein” (small but beautiful), as we say in German.
Since event presents itself as focusing on explorative paths in creation, where do you see yet unexplored sections that could be looked into? 
Identity and diversity, the theme of Preziosa 2015 has already opened new perceptions and perspectives in jewellery, with exhibitions from Europe, Asia and Africa. On one hand, we tend toward more and more of a sense of global identity, while on the other hand we seek to remember our roots. Jewellery plays an important role in this field, and it still remains to be explored.
Research projects like Kevin Murrays Social Objects Design has also led to a new way of thinking. Research into the social life of things is a very important topic, immanent to jewellery. In my anthropological research on African jewellery I often came across the social dimension of adornment, by reading the context and connotation. Mark Zuckerberg is planning  to create a cap which can read our thoughts … could this become a kind of “adornment” in a virtual world? And what does it mean for us in times of fascism?
In our unbound world of conflicts, why not explore this and other burning issues not only in fine art but also in jewellery?

In recent years the experimental space of presented jewellery has greatly expanded, partially thanks to new technologies, do you believe this was the main thing which lead to discoveries and innovative explorations? 
New technologies have certainly opened new experimental fields in design which have not been feasible before. Of course, jewellers also use these new tools in innovative ways.
It think it is very important that the new technologies are taught at jewellery institutions, as is the case at LAO as well. But neither old nor new technology does help to create innovative jewellery, without the sensitive imagination of the artist. Therefore, I think new technology by itself is not the main driving force behind artistic innovation.
Does innovative technology which is over and over repeated in Preziosa case, exceptionally means 21st century creations as laser cut, 3D print, CNC milling and so on?  
Preziosa 2017 does not offer workshops in innovative technologies, as LAO had intensive workshops in this field at the last Preziosa 2015. This years’ workshops focus on different approaches on contemporary jewellery: through social study (Kevin Murray), post-graduate research (Robert Baines), and studies of natural materials (Tasso Mattar and me).
Innovation in jewellery and other arts is a matter of Zeitgeist. There is no doubt that new technologies are tempting and exciting, as it is the case with Mark Zuckerberg’s new ideas and the development of robots. But I can also see a role-back to traditional technologies. Touching tools and material with your hands, manipulating and transforming material directly, has become a new goal not only in art jewellery. Again, there is no contradiction between tradition and modernity, but instead a possibility for new fields of research.

About the Interviewee

Martina Dempf is a professionally trained jeweller and designer with a master’s degree in social anthropology and philosophy. Thus, her scientific studies and her creative work are strongly related and complement each other.
She lives and works in Berlin, where she runs her own studio and gallery. Her second studio is in Skopelos/Greece. For over thirty years her artistic work has been shown and collected at international exhibitions in museums, galleries and fairs throughout the world. Leading design institutions have invited her to lecture on contemporary and ethnic jewellery. She also works as a teacher, design consultant and curator for artistic jewellery in Europe, Asia and Africa.
For more information visit her Website.
Portrait of Martina Dempf by Agata Szymanska-Medina

About the author

Viktorija Domarkaite
is an artist and a starting freelance curator.
She has received a bachelor's degree in jewellery and blacksmithing from the Estonian Academy of Arts, where she is currently finishing her master's degree in design and applied art.
Connecting through emotions in her artistic work and possessing strong organisational skills, developed while being a student representative of the Academy, have led her to start curating exhibitions.
Viktorija’s main goal is to create delightful and peculiar expositions enhancing the beauty of the artworks themselves.