Sara Barbanti, Joya 2019 Jury Member interviewed by Klimt02

Interview  /  Fairs   Curating
Published: 05.06.2019
Sara Barbanti Sara Barbanti
Carolin Denter, Klimt02
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JOYA Barcelona is the main art jewelry and art object event in Spain. Gathering a great number of independent artists as well as related organizations, schools and other entities, JOYA  prepares to present excellence and innovation in contemporary art.

With the 11th edition taking place, this October the fair will be held under the topic of "Diplomacy and Jewellery", inspired by the former US Secretary of State Madeleine Albright, which used pins to express her moods and opinions. This is the last interview of three. We spoke to Jury Member Sara Barbanti, jeweller and last years JOYA Award winner. 
Sara, this year you are selected as JOYA 2019 Jury Member. Please tell us more about your professional development.
After pursuing my degree in Interior Design I felt the need to create something in first person and with my own hands, right from the origin of an idea up to the final object. I approached jewellery making because my grandfather was a dental technician, whose tools were very similar to those of a jewellery maker. I started to experiment in his laboratory, soon realizing that it was the way in which I wished to express myself. I then decided to study the craft of jewellery making at the Arti Orafe in Florence. Above all, I have been lucky to get to know Gigi Mariani, a great person, and great teacher, a maestro who decided to help me develop my ideas. The relationship with my land and its nature, and with the work of my father, a farmer, has been fundamental to my work thus far. I grew up in close contact with this landscape, and with a feeling that one day I would have to carry all of it forth myself, so I decided to lengthen the lifespan of these dead plants by transforming them into charcoal and jewellery pieces. The concept of metamorphosis of the material and of reusing something that normally is considered scrap is essential to my research.

Diplomacy and Jewellery is the topic for JOYA 2019 and the accompanying exhibition of Artesania Catalunya. Looking at your work, you deal more with the topics of material, contrast, light and darkness. How does this apply to you to the topic of politics, if it does? What is your relation to diplomacy, politics and social issues?
I don’t think that politics has a central role in my work, yet at the same time, I believe that contemporary jewellery is a strong vehicle of communication, always taking on a certain value in a political and social sense. In particular, my work relates to nature and to the story it has to tell. It is phases of evolution and destruction of the material, a metaphor for a process of intimate change in each and every one of us. I began a collaboration with an association for reforestation, in a certain sense to close the cycle – each plant that dies can generate the birth of another plant through its transformation into jewellery pieces and its sale.

Why have you been selected to be part of this year's Jury?
I was selected the winner of the Joya Award last year. To be part of this year’s jury is not only a great honor but also a way to put myself to the test and I’m grateful for it.

Sara Barbanti at the Award Ceremony of last years JOYA Barcelona with founder Paulo Ribeiro and Jury Member Gabriela Izquierdo​

Inspired by the US Secretary Albright and her famous action on wearing pins with political messages while attending different events and meetings, this year's topic is relevant than ever. But, there are some people that think - art and politics - they should never mix. What’s your view and why do you feel it’s important to pair art with activism in this way?
I think it’s very difficult to avoid these two dimensions mixing. Like I said contemporary jewellery is a medium through which we can express ourselves maybe irrationally in some works and purposely in others, but in all of us, aspects of our thought and the life that surrounds us become involved. I believe that using art as a vehicle of thought is effective, you can create fascination and dialogue in the observer, and create moments of reflection that in turn stimulate change.

  • I believe that using art as a vehicle of thought is effective, you can create fascination and dialogue in the observer, and create moments of reflection that in turn stimulate change.

What is your personal interpretation of this year’s topic? Any thoughts?
We are in a moment in history that is charged with questions and controversial arguments. For this reason, it’s very interesting to place this theme as the central one and to see how artists will interpret it and on what topics they will focus on. I think it’s a clever way to harness a potential whole vision of what people who differ greatly in provenance, age, and personal background might think.

There are many ways to deal with political problems and Zeitgeist. What do you think is required to make a political statement in art and design that actually resonates with people, and makes a difference?
I believe there has to be honesty at the basis of a work that functions as a medium for an idea. For the work to relate to people I think the artist should firstly be able to observe what happens both around and inside us and should cast an eye towards our story, all whilst realizing what we are currently living through and being forward-looking. Art, in general, can be a powerful tool to invite people to reflect on their condition, or give an insight into society and to inspire reflections for the future, we hope.

  • Art, in general, can be a powerful tool to invite people to reflect on their condition, or give an insight into society and to inspire reflections for the future, we hope.

Do you see an inherent relationship between art and political interventions?
I think that art relates to politics in different ways. At times it becomes a mode of protest and a witness to events that occur, yet at the same time manages to detach itself completely from everything. I think it’s fundamental to maintain this special freedom and independence. The relationship between art and politics exists only when it becomes a necessity for the artist.

As a judge for the 2019 JOYA Award, what do you expect to see? What is the aesthetic specific you are looking for and what are your criteria or your visions for the selection?
I’m not searching for a specific aesthetic, certainly I’m looking for energy, I hope to see pieces with narratives behind them. I’m curious to notice the differences between various works and their interpretations. Materials hold particular interest, as do production processes, but above all it’s the intentions that stand behind them that engage me.

As someone who is using fairs as a tool for sales, what do you think of the fairs as a communicative event and/or for career development?
In my modest experience up until now, it’s been fundamentally important to creating a community. The fair is a moment always full of energy and exchange. On top of that, to be able to present your own project in person, to explain it directly and personally is a very important experience to have. Above all, it constitutes a moment of growth. Each encounter adds something to your own thought, stimulating reflection and growth. It’s only through this exchange that you can notice different facets of your own work you might not have considered.

There are some Jewellery fairs worldwide. What do you think is special about the JOYA Jewellery Fair in Barcelona?
Joya is very special to me, it was the first fair I participated in back in 2017 as a member of AGC. The following year I returned as an individual artist. It’s a very informal environment where you meet lots of people in a fun and direct way – it calls people from all over the world who are interested in contemporary jewellery, and facilitates good contact-building with curators and collectors. That Joya remain not too big I also think important, as its size gives the possibility of experiencing it all attentively without having to rush from one side to another dispersing attention. Last but not least important, the framed backdrop to all of this is an incredible city with helpful and hospitable people.

What made your interest in contemporary jewellery?
Like I said I believe that at this moment contemporary jewellery constitutes my fundamental medium of expression. I was attracted to the special connection between body and jewel and by the idea of creating an artwork that would be worn and brought out in the world. This relationship between the wearer and the object becomes much more intimate than in other forms of artwork. Furthermore, each jewellery piece changes based on the person wearing it, conferring it a sense of continuous transformation.
The process of creation is incredibly stimulating for me - the balance between creating something that formally expresses what I want, whilst retaining certain characteristics to make it wearable is a continuous personal test.

About the Interviewee

Sara Barbanti was born in Modena in 1991. After an Interior Design degree at Politecnico di Milano, in 2013, she moved to Florence to attend a jewellery-making course at Le Arti Orafe Jewellery School. Once finished her studies she returned to Modena where she started to frequent Gigi Mariani’s goldsmith studio and to develop her artistic research.