In the seventies, many goldsmiths artists face up with decoration as a way of thinking, as an alternative and autonomous experimental means of conceptual art.
Some researches deal with the eternal or the ephemeral visibility of the ornament, our intimate bound with it, its value with the passing of time, and, definitely, its right to impose itself as artistic expression despite its decorative properties.
Gerd Rothmann, who attends Preziosa 2006, makes jewels in which the trace of his buyer is impressed, establishing a deep connection with the wearer. Traditionally, jewels preserve the memory of a darling, as inherited gifts. In Rothmann, the physical reminder is stronger because ornaments are conceived to be extremely individual. He realises unconventional silver or gold decorations for specific and personal parts of the body moulded on his clients, such as Achille’s Heel for Fritz Scheuer’s heel (1978) or Insight of the nose for Daniel Fusban (1987).
The personal jewel, as a physical trace of his owner, is also a central theme of Gijs Bakker‘s research, who in 1974 draws a profile ornament for his wife, Emmy Van Leersum.
Bakker, another guest of Preziosa 2006, thinks about decoration in its connection to the wearer’s body surface.
In Shadow Jewellery (1973), he captures the ephemeral imprints that minimal bracelets left after have been wrapped and pressed on arms or legs.
The logic of marking the skin by stressing it, remembers Trademarks (1970) by Vito Acconci, who bits into his body, signing it as much as possible with his teeth. Such operations are documented by photographs that create a relation, a closer contact with the viewer, based on the sense of sight and touch.
The involvement of the audience and the body’s wearer inscribes these kinds of surveys in a broader current that spreads from the sixties in Europe and in the United States: body art. Acconci discovers, by the marks he leaves on himself, the proof of his existence and his physical boundaries.
Also in Rothmann’s work, someone’s trace is materialised, but to add on another’s presence, like in From him for her (1990), where a male wrist closes around that of his beloved.
Instead, in Bakker, the absence of the jewel reveals the evidence of an earlier presence, that is no more visible. The durability of the metal comes into conflict with the immaterial sign, which quickly vanishes. As the Ice Jewellery (1999) by Naomi Filmer, invited to Preziosa 2006, ornament has a short life: jewels dissolve because of the body’s warmth, revealing their transience.
Peter Skubic is one of Preziosa‘s first participant in 2005. Father of a kind of irreverent attitude in contemporary jewellery, in 1975 he undergoes a surgical operation during which he makes implanted a small plate of steel under his skin that he keeps until 1982. Seven years later, he removes the sheet, hidden it again in the bezel of a finger ring. Traumatically introducing the jewel inside his body, he transforms it in a “foreign body”, creating a bond with the wearer that could not be closer and more intimate. The ornament disappears, and what it remains, in the end, is an indelible scar on his body, which could be read as an artificial form of decoration too.