In Retrospect: Bodies and Minds

mostra ALCHIMIA

We admit it, we are slightly sad about the difficulty to receive critical (written) assessment on a jewellery exhibition in Florence. Of course we know that when exhibitions have such a short life span (three days) it is nearly impossible to manage to get a critic in, let him pause on the show and share his reflections after. And then again, how many jewellery critics are there in Florence or Italy anyway? How wide would our readership be? And importantly, how much is a critic or writer paid in the jewellery context to make worth the effort and to validate his/her role as work and as labour and not just as passionate intellectual endeavor pursued for enthusiasm and believe in a discipline?

Anyway, this was not supposed to be the subject of this post. Here, our interest is in sharing with you some beautiful moments of an exhibition. One that tried to create a network of intentional and accidental associations between art jewellery pieces, 45 wooden balls and a collection of original and copies of (mostly) white marble sculptures, starring in a church converted into an artists’ studio two centuries ago.

We had multiple intentions with this curatorial gesture: to have the body present, physically and mentally, vis-à-vis the pieces; to call attention to the hybrid nature of contemporary jewelry for a non professionalized audience: its simultaneous existence as a piece to be worn and to be exhibited in a gallery context; to shed light on something that these six jewelry artists, all recent graduates of Alchimia, shared: an educational experience in a context, a city, a country, overwhelmed by a heavy and magnificent past, difficult to overcome, in thought as much as visually; to metaphorically speak of the interstitial and liminal space contemporary culture inhabits in the city. But what we also aimed for in the more sensual and straight-forward way possible was to romantically create magic human moments of encounter between artifacts of different nature, intention and time.

In 1829 Lorenzo Bartolini, an important Tuscan sculptor working in between the XVIII and XIX century, turned a previous church into his own studio. After his death, his favorite pupil Pasquale Romanelli, adopted the space: since then five generations of Italian male artists have worked and exhibited into this site, initiating a collection that speaks to the last two centuries of Italian classical sculpture with an important presence of Fascist examples.

On June 17, 2016 a group of six female jewelry artists coming from Russia, Lebanon, Chile and Italy took over the space and the collection enacting a hormonal clash of powers and dimensions, reshuffling hierarchies between disciplines and genders. Here, choreography was key – their pieces wanted tell you stories of fleshy thrills and conceptual affairs.

Please remember to take care: there is so much meaning in the details!

 

Daria Borovkova, Being and Belonging, 2016

The research of Daria Borovkova (born in Moscow in 1984) focuses on socio-cultural aspects that define contemporary human identity: the need for mobility and its implications, such as the impossibility to create long-term and rooted relations with a territory and its cultural fabric, but also the more hybrid and less nationalistic identity that emerges out of this equation. Through her jewels Borovkova experiments with unconventional alloys and a very personal artistic process in which several and variously precious metals are first melted, then rolled in very thin layers and finally shaped until they become rings or bracelets, each with very unique proportions, nuances and forms, yet part of a manifestly homogeneous crowd. Metaphor of the construction of the subject both as an individual and as part of a community, Being and Belonging speaks of how the formation of an identity is a manufactured process in continuous, and partly unpredictable, transformation.

Sana Khalil, In Conflict. Moments of Strike, 2014-2016

The practice of Sana Khalil (born in Beirut in 1985) emerges from existential questions relating to the feeling of static helplessness of the individual in relation to the wider political and social context that surrounds him. Her work is strongly influenced by the history of her country, Lebanon, and her role as an artist and as a citizen within contexts of war and on-going unrest. The series In Conflict. Moments of Strike consists of a collection of brooches and wooden spheres that Khalil has hammered and tried to scratch for many months, without being able to produce any major difference to their structure, while visibly defiling their surface. The continuous and programmatic repetition of the same gestures are deemed to fail as they have no agency on infrastructures, while only influencing surfaces. Differently, her brooches are semi-spherical elements that appear as a battered matter, which yet results as sadistically seductive. An omen to the double nature of beauty, and its controversial meanings and, more importantly, as in Khalil’s words, the representation of fear, pain and vulnerability.

Lavinia Rossetti , Madeleine, 2016

Lavinia Rossetti (born in Pisa in 1985) deals with the whirlwind of feelings and emotions that characterize the human psyche and physicality. Madeleine is a series of highly poetic and nostalgic works, referring to the famous French dessert that Marcel Proust uses as a metaphor for the notion of involuntary memory in À la recherche du temps perdu. Brooches and necklaces are characterized by the recurrence of the oval shape, direct reference to the traditional technique of inlaid wood and to the pendants containing images of beloved ones in vogue since the XVIII century. Within a strong and wide sense of openness of meanings and subjective takes to the pieces, Madeleine becomes a metaphor of the layered and impermanent substance of our memory and how this is shaped through the proximity to the body, the mind and the heart.

 

Federica Sala, True Lies. A Collection of Oxymorons, 2015-2016

The practice of Federica Sala (born in Milan in 1986) is based on the analysis of the physical properties of different materials to experiment new and unpredictable formal possibilities. Her works have a particularly complex formal outcome, where sophisticated techniques are associated with a substantial theoretical research, and the physical and chemical characteristics of the materials are lined to existential questions on the human nature. In the series True Lies. A Collection of Oxymorons, glass and stones come together in an innovative dialogue result of a long research developed on the island of Murano, with a strong relationship to local crafters. These works encourage a reflection on the inextricable co-dependence between opposite forces and forms, and on the limits of our visual and intellectual perception. Seemingly impossible structures that emphasize how much what we intuitively call reality is a fragile, hybrid and complex system, despite the appearances.

Giulia Savino , 1 : 20,000, 2015 – 2016

Precariousness and mobility are two of the main stereotypical aspects that affect the lives of the new Western generations, often characterized by uncertainty, the knowledge of different languages, the ability to have a light luggage and to be a fast and multi-tasking person. With the series 1:20,000 Giulia Savino (born in Vercelli in 1987), a traveller and adventurer herself, with an important working experience in Egypt, has created necklaces and earrings that respond to these very contemporary needs: seducing and light objects, bearing a featherweight, taking up very little space and adaptable to different contexts . These works represent personal interpretations of cities from above or known only through maps: Amsterdam, Florence, Paris , Barcelona and her native Vercelli . They become cities to own, wear, appropriate and interpret.

Maria Ignacia Walker, Trascendieron, 2015

The work by Maria Ignacia Walker (born in Santiago de Chile in 1984) follows an obsession with the human body and its past and present rituals that define and outline daily actions, even when involuntarily. Her jewels are performative works, where the observer or the wearer is called to perform an action, to use them in order to understand them. Trascendieron is conceived as a tribute to the silent and trivial losses that we inadvertently witness every day. Some hair got caught in forms of gold and porcelain within a collection that encourages a reflection on the human impulse to collect and preserve, bringing both of these aspects to their extreme. They are counted, measured, analyzed and meticulously preserved as if they were rare and precious materials, in an ironic and poetic act that questions the parameters used to quantify the value of things.

All images are by Martino Margheri.

The exhibition was curated by Antonia Alampi and Riccardo Lami.

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