Stefano Marchetti interviewed by Mirella Cisotto Nalon

Interview  /  Artists
Published: 01.03.2018
Stefano Marchetti Stefano Marchetti
Mirella Cisotto Nalon
Edited by:
Settore Cultura, Turismo, Musei e Biblioteche
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I believe that any object achieves the status of art when it offers a novel perspective, a different use, something that is "revolutionary" on some level. To avoid confusion, I would add that by revolutionary I do not necessarily mean it overturns a previous model. Rather, it adds something authentic, meaningful, capable of expanding its potential.

When and how did you choose jewellery making as the means to express your creativity – was it by chance or was it something that always interested you?
Since I was a child, I have always had a visceral passion for metals, fire and chemistry. When I happened to find a piece of copper, I felt as though I had found a treasure. The idea of studying jewellery making at the Pietro Selvatico Art Institute, when I was 14 years old, came in fact from my father. It immediately seemed like a good idea, even though I was not exactly sure what jewellery making was at the time.

What is jewellery for you?
It is a place, a place where I can find and express myself.

Who were your mentors or artists who in some way impacted your choices, style and creative method?
Unquestionably Maestro Francesco Pavan.

Is there a trend in Contemporary Art that seems to apply to you or that your works have a connection with?
Influences are inevitable. In the finest hours of the history of jewellery making, the interplay between the different artistic genres was a true exchange among equals.
When I started out in this profession, in the late '80s, my first works were influenced somewhat by the ideas of French Post-Impressionism. In particular I’m referring to the works inspired by Chevreul’s studies on the perception of colours. I endeavoured to obtain unique effects by combining small elements of gold, silver and copper. At the time, I called this phase Divisionism in Metal Alloys. In 2008, for reasons similar to those that led to the use of the term Pointillisme to denote French Divisionism, I changed my phrase. I like the term Puntinismo (Italian for Pointillism), which seems to be a sort of innocent mangling, by casual coincidence, of a more correct term.
Aside from a few instances, however, I have always sought to give the jewellery a voice simply through the piece itself, avoiding references to other artistic disciplines. When I have paid attention to revolutions, these have been primarily in the scientific field. My objective was and still remains the promotion of the characteristic elements of the discipline of jewellery making.
I like to think that contemporary jewellery does not necessarily need to be a mere echo of some trends in Contemporary Art.
What type of artistic movement do you feel an affinity for?

My production is varied.
Partly out of passion and partly to good-naturedly needle certain colleagues, I often say that Modernism is the artistic movement I feel closest to.
One of the reasons I like Modernism is that, at least until a few years ago, it was considered to be enemy number one of good contemporary jewellery. Although there are many reasons behind this fierce hatred, I find the accusation that Modernism represents an outdated way of thinking particularly amusing. In general, detractors of this movement consider Conceptual Art to be a contemporary and valid model. It is funny to note how small, almost inexistent, the temporal distance is between the two models and how the theories of both models are temporally quite removed from the present.
I would like to clarify that this does not mean I am opposed to the models created by Kosuth, or even earlier by Duchamp. These are models that I loved and still love. In fact, one of my most difficult and also most satisfying works, Homage to LENR II, can correctly be defined as a conceptual piece.

Stefano Marchetti, Brooch Homage to LENR II, 2015.
Gold, Platinum, Tin, Glass, Wood, Copper, Resin, Mixed media. 10 x 6 x 2 cm

Do you belong to a group or a school?
I would say that I feel, without doubt, I am an exponent of the so-called Padua School, although it is not easy to define what exactly this means today.
What artistic production centres and intellectual movements influence you?

Aside from Padua and the cultural exchanges I have established over the course of my career with certain colleagues in Padua, I have had interesting interactions with Dutch, Austrian and German colleagues. These exchanges, however, had an active influence on my work primarily during my training. In my current production, I am not influenced by intellectual movements tied to a specific location.
In the field of jewellery creation, is there a type of jewellery that you feel more of an affinity for or that gives you greater satisfaction?
The brooch is the piece that leaves the artist the most room for creativity and today there is a flexibility in interpreting its ideal size and weight. Necklaces and rings are potentially more difficult to design and can offer interesting challenges. In contrast, earrings, which involve the production of two identical pieces, necessarily require a repetition of procedures that can be tedious. Considering that in my work I need to continually repeat the same actions and operations without tiring, it may seem strange for me to mention the tedium of repeating a piece. I think, however, that finishing an earring and then making the same object again is less interesting than repeating many identical steps to produce a single necklace, since the finished work can only be seen once it is completed.
What materials do you use or have a preference for?
Metals and metal alloys in general. Specifically, gold, silver and copper. I have no biases against any materials; I have used wood, glass, iron, resin, nanomolecules of various substances, etc.
Why do you prefer it or them?

I study metals because I think that there is still much to express and explore with metals in jewellery making. I like their technical characteristics, their colour, their smell. Initially, I was not a fan of the yellow colour of gold. Then I realized this was a bias. I invite everyone to work with pure gold at least once – it is marvellous, soft, solders easily, can be bent with the fingers, it does whatever you want. It is definitely something to experience.
What (if any) do you believe is the common thread or theme of your jewellery?
Experimentation with materials, which among other things has a deep impact on the form of my jewellery.
One of the practices that has given me the most satisfaction involves gathering technological procedures from other fields. I created, for example, a technique that can be considered to derive from mokumé parquetry, which has enabled me to produce micro-mosaics in metal. Although the procedure I created was inspired by many sources, one of the main sources was undoubtedly Venetian glassmaking. I adapted a glassmaking technique, murrina, for use in a corresponding jewellery technique.
It is easy to understand from my words how important artistic techniques and the study of technological procedures are to me. I must emphasize, however, that I have never produced or attempted to produce displays of virtuosity. I have never pushed a procedure to its limits for the purpose of creating astonishment. I believe that this is a temptation that anyone who loves the technical aspects must face at one time or another, and that it is best to avoid it.
I limit myself to using the construction method as a driver for the field itself and techniques as a tool for investigating jewellery’s expressive potential.
What relationship is there between you, the jewellery you create, and the person who wears or chooses it?
Since there is no common element in art among all the objects produced from antiquity to today, in response to this question a theory of Wittgenstein comes to mind, which I consider to be one of the most brilliant ideas for establishing a possible relationship between the artists, objects and users of any era. The solution involves finding at least one common element between the groups of objects, thus obtaining a similarity or relationship. For example, person A has ears similar to person B, who has eyes similar to person C. Persons C and A have nothing in common, aside from person B. This is how I view the relationship between me, my creations and the people who choose them. My jewellery are like person B.
When you create a jewellery piece, do you think about who will wear it?
No, but I like to think that they will be intelligent, and often they are.
What are the techniques that you use to produce your jewellery?
In general, I like to invent technical procedures that I later use to produce my jewellery. I basically use procedures that I personally create, which are usually unnamed. At times they can be categorized as belonging to a certain family of techniques, at other times they are so diverse and layered that it is difficult to define them in a few words.
Recently I constructed a piece by applying knowledge I gathered from studying low-energy nuclear reactions (LENR). While obviously I did not attempt fusion, I forced atomic nuclei to pass through a thin metal film and then converted them back into complete atoms. I obtained the same initial atoms, but they were composed of different particles. This experience was not unlike producing a real philosopher’s stone. However, explaining in just a few words the technique I used to do all this is almost impossible.
Is there a common thread or philosophy that guides you in the production of your work?
I strive to always be a jeweller. I feel like a jeweller even when I am working in glass or wood. Even if I had to build something very large, several metres tall for example, I would continue to think like a jeweller rather than a sculptor.
During the planning stage, do you produce a design? A model? Do you have a precise plan or do you leave it to inspiration in the moment or to chance?
Sometimes I work with cardboard and metal models, along with sketches on paper, other times the design and the object are one and the same.
In some cases, I study the idea for months or even years before designing or building even a single prototype.
I have never developed a set design method.
essential difference is there between your first creations and your current creations? Were there intermediate stages?
Numerous differences and numerous stage. Some can be viewed as an interface between two different stages, almost a gradation that connects two similar ideas and makes them coherent. Others, in contrast, express radical shifts that are independent from preceding or subsequent stages.
Is your production divided into different phases or is it more of a homogenous evolution? In what groups or categories can your work be divided into?
Yes, many phases. It is difficult to describe them in a few lines without images, but I will try to summarize a few of the main phases.
My earliest works were inspired by the pixel – I wanted to create jewellery like a computer of that time represented images on a screen. This was during my first years studying at the Art Institute and I was completely fascinated by the classes on the relationship between science and art, which I mentioned in one of the first questions in this interview. Studies on the perception of images and colours influenced me considerably. Soon I realized that my earliest research on computers led, almost accidentally, to a procedure that I would later perfect and call metal micro-mosaic. The first works I produced are here in this exhibition. A piece that is particularly significant to me is one that reproduces a sort of gradated shading in silver and copper. That piece embodies all of the ideas, influences, technical knowledge and ideals that I had when I first started in this profession. A significant phase for me was the creation of jewellery with naturalistic forms, for example reeds. These pieces can be viewed as my first completed works, rather than mere studies. They were the first that I displayed and feature aesthetics that often derived from Japanese culture, as did the basic techniques of my procedures. Another important phase is the long period devoted exclusively to mosaics, which was unrelated to any preceding stage. This category of works surely represents the largest part of my production. This is an area that is still open to development and further exploration.
The next phase involved the production of mosaic fabrics applied to spatial volumes, and then the chemical breaking apart and recombining of metal structures.
One project that is unusual and different from all the other phases was closer to pure art than jewellery making. It is based on the ideal duration of an artistic study – periodic study, which involves exploring a predefined theme through the production of a piece every ten years. The idea behind this project is to pursue an artistic theme with the constraint of only being able to produce a limited number of works, at most four or five over the course of my life, and with a significant interval of time between one piece and the next.
I have also experimented with multi-layer vitreous enamels and have devoted lengthy study to metal alloys having unique characteristics. My most recent work, which I consider important and have already mentioned is a philosopher's stone, potentially functioning on the basis of tested scientific models.
In your opinion, should jewellery have a value in and of itself or does its true value appear only when it is worn?
It can have its own value. The idea of wearability is a flexible concept. One could jokingly say that a piece of jewellery is wearable as long as it doesn’t “wear” the owner. Jewellery is part of the dress of a culture and this has variable value – it can be a bit uncomfortable, in the way that elegant clothing is less comfortable than a T-shirt. This is not necessarily a problem. Think, for example, of the idea of piercing the earlobe to insert a metal post. It would seem that injuring body tissue should be unacceptable from the perspective of wearability, but culturally the idea is accepted without problem.
At times wearing my work requires a little effort. Not always, but if there is an aesthetic need for an essential, important expressive element I feel compelled to do so.
A few clarifications must be made, however – jewellery must be wearable, and if it is not, then it cannot be called jewellery. At the same time, I feel I must mention that if jewellery only had true value when it was worn, I could not explain the passion I feel whenever I see an extraordinary piece in a museum. If that piece had never been worn, would it be any less interesting? My response is no.
How do you view gold? Do you use it or do you reject it? Why?
Gold is an interesting material that I use with pleasure.
This question, which on the surface seems to deal with a simple matter of taste, is in reality one of the main conflicts in a field that is full of conflicts.
I find that the various debates regarding whether or not gold should be used in jewellery making do not make much sense. I do not think that it is the material that determines the quality of a work of art. Therefore, this bias, like all biases, is absurd to me.
One of my studies has this very bias as its theme. I produced agglomerates of dust and metallic nanomolecules mixed with synthetic resin – so called “plastic gold”. This enables the resulting material to be kneaded and modelled by hand like mud, the oldest material used by man to model images.
Paradoxically, the intrinsic value of this mud, which has a fineness greater than 750/000, is higher than that of the precious metal commonly used to make jewellery.
But is it gold or plastic? The metal is no longer just metal; it is mixed with a resin. It therefore remains a precious mixture, but loses the characteristics typical of metal. So is it a gold-resin alloy or is it a kind of plastic with gold inside?
The main objective was to create a stalemate for every possible argument regarding "good" and "bad" materials to use in contemporary jewellery making.
In conclusion, I reiterate that I do not consider any material better than another and believe that an object’s quality resides in the ability to nourish the work with our ideas, not in the material used to make it. I believe, however, that having a bias against using gold in jewellery making (something that has occurred and still occurs) demonstrates an incredible and complete lack of vision, and that this widespread attitude alone explains many of the problems that exist in the field today.

Stefano Marchetti, Brooch Untitled Revisited, 2015. Work designed for Klimt02 Gallery for the exhibition To Recover in 2015.
Silver, Resin.

In your opinion, what is the difference between art and artisanship?
Well, that is a complex question. I would say that an artist invents and an artisan reproduces. If an artist copies one of his or her pieces, at that moment he or she becomes an artisan. The reverse is also true – if an artisan invents something, he or she becomes an artist.
Having said this, jewellers are generally considered to be artisans, and this does not bother me at all. Although the status of artist is generally viewed as better than that of artisan, the term is so exaggerated and ambiguous today that it has lost, at least in part, some of its credibility.
I would say that the distinction between these two terms has become blurred and clouded by the background noise that surrounds these two professions.
What do you think about designer jewellery? Is it something that pertains to you?

It has to do with design, and I love designing. However, designer also immediately brings to mind serial and industrial production.
I produce unique pieces and it is best not to associate, in the market or in the area of cultural institutions, industrial products with unique pieces without making a clear distinction between the two types.
I have had ideas that would be perfectly suited to serial production. I would not rule out becoming involved in this type of activity in the future, which obviously must be classified as such.

In your opinion, when is a piece of jewellery a work of art?
I believe that any object achieves the status of art when it offers a novel perspective, a different use, something that is revolutionary on some level. To avoid confusion, I would add that by “revolutionary” I do not necessarily mean it overturns a previous model. Rather, it adds something authentic, meaningful, capable of expanding its potential.
/ M. Cisotto Nalon (a cura di), Pensieri Preziosi - Monografie. Stefano Marchetti. Superficie in profondità, Imprimenda, 2016, Padova, pp. 25-28.


About the Interviewee

Marchetti describes himself as a combination of goldsmith, sculptor, technical processes developerand teacher. He has revisited a number of themes over the course of his career, like the mosaics, or pieces created through chemical corrosion, obtaining a golden skeleton of a piece originally made by silver and gold – As with photography you cannot see the result until the end… I had to work like a blind sculptor – or again, he worked on floating structures, frozen in a limited space, or on plastic gold – it is neither gold nor plastic, but it is, well... both of them – . Right now he is researching the possibilities of drawing on silver with palladium.

About the author

Mirella Cisotto Nalon, contemporary art critic and expert of museum exhibitions, has been  Head of  the Culture Tourism Museums Area and of the  Padua Municipal Library. She coordinates cultural and educational events, exhibitions, shows, festivals and promotes the historical and artistic heritage of the city. For the Padua Municipality, for example, superintended the works for the Interactive Multimedia Area of the Scrovegni Chapel,  conceived educational projects such as Impara il Museo,  IncontraPadova, Un manifesto per i beni culturali…). Contemporary jewellery specialist, Mirella set up the international jewellery exhibition Pensieri Preziosi, The International Award Mario Pinton and curates and has curated several solo and collective art exhibitions. She is interested also in Art Glass. Mirella has issued more than one hundred publications. Serious attention has been paid to the environment and the animal world with several cultural initiatives (such as the exhibition Cuori sulla Terra). She is Head Padua FAI Delegation (Fondo Ambiente Italiano).