I interviewed Zihan Yang, one of the seven winners of Preziosa Young 2020, the international contest organised by Le Arti Orafe Jewellery School, the first school dedicated to contemporary jewellery in Italy, founded in 1985 in Florence by Giò Carbone. Since 2008, Preziosa Young has promoted the creativity of the younger generations, rewarding the proposal of innovative concepts, techniques and materials used, in order to create unique jewels. This year the winners are all women, selected from 147 applications from all over the world by an international jury composed by curators, artists and jewellery critics, like Giovanni Corvaja, Eugenia Gadaleta, Kazumi Nagano, Cóilín O’Dubhghaill, Renzo Pasquale, Carla Riccoboni, Sam Tho Duong. Zihan Yang will have the opportunity to show her D.H. jewellery series made of a multitude of small silver and gold components, in occasion of the travelling exhibition PREZIOSA YOUNG 2020, together with Elwy Schutten, Chia-Hsien Lin, Marie Masson, Jess Tolbert, Rachael Colley and Dongyi Wu, the other winners of this PY edition. Moreover, Yang was awarded the INHORGENTA PRIZE, getting a free exhibition space at the Inhorgenta2021 fair in Munich! The exhibition starts in Florence in October, then moves to Spain and Germany next year:
- 29th October – 8th November 2020, Galleria del Palazzo Enrico Coveri, Florence
- 13th January – 3rd February 2021, Hannah Gallery, Barcelona
- 12th – 28th February, Atelier Martina Dempf, Berlin
- Oratory of San Rocco, Padua.
The exhibition was supposed to take place in May during the Florence Jewellery Week, cancelled like many other cultural events due to the consequent restrictions caused by Covid-19, and specifically for that reason other dates and locations are being defined. Now let’s find out Yang’s personal way to conceive the jewellery research as a method to discover our deepest selves:
- When dealing with contemporary goldsmith artists or jewellery designers, the first curiosity is to know how ornament has been chosen as the main means of expression. Why jewellery in particular and what was your training in this field?
ZIHAN YANG: My background was industrial design. To be honest, I do not remember why I chose jewelry. Fortunately, it is a good decision so far. In the first year of studying jewelry at Savannah College of Art and Design in the United States, I focused on to learn hand fabrication and new techniques, and meanwhile, I studied art history and history of jewelry. I was no background with jewelry before, so I have to as quickly as I could to improve my professional knowledge to be able to deliver my ideas from my mind. Everything I made in the first year, they were just like so many little broken pieces with no feelings. Until after I graduated, when I look back now, I totally understand that all the experiences I had have built and influenced my pieces.
- Your jewels try to give shape to the dark side of human nature. That is given back through the multiplication of small black elements that build the pieces. Do you want to better explain the aim of your research?
ZIHAN YANG: My studio practice focuses on exploring the darkness of human nature to create jewelry objects to express my understanding and point of view to the viewers. Humanity has difficulty with introspection. The dark abyss of human behavior can appear suddenly; therefore, the means to restrain these behaviors must be practiced our whole life. As humans, we like to see ourselves from a positive perspective and often do not engage in understanding our negative aspects. Normally, facing choices is a direct way of showing human nature. The decision is not only between right and wrong and often it’s hard to understand how to behave: most of the time, there are only tough choices as options. Yet we must face the consequences of our choices and through practice learn what choices can afford. We must understand and take responsibility for our choices, yet these choices are not as simple as the difference between right or wrong. Using the desire to restrain desire is the way people make choices, but it is an unconscious moment. When we think we must restrain the darkness of human nature, it becomes a kind of desire too, but it seems more positive. During my process of creation, I believe that contemporary jewelry should not be a final answer to a question, but an open ending, which provokes thought, awakens desire, offers potential barely perceptible.
- In your opinion, the deepest face of ourselves can be enlighten only by our ability of self-examination. What material do you use in your research process and how do you manage to give form to this idea?
ZIHAN YANG: Material is not a big focus point during my creation process, but elements, structures, and the process of creation. I use sterling silver with 18k yellow gold just because I use to work with it. For the design part, I am more focused on to create the patterns and structures by using the small elements in order to deliver my point of view. My studio practice aims to create signs through a silent language, which consists of the repetition of many small components. My use of repetition creates a rhythm, which helps to create a sense of movement within the artwork. That rhythm moves beyond the work, and soon the silent message reverberates from the artwork to the audience. The process of making echoes the process of self-examination. We can never fully know ourselves without constant reflection. We must continuously look and explore life the way it moves back and forth never stopping: only through this action, we can understand who we are as human beings. We start at one point, and we go to another through this action of the line: this movement is part of my design language. My work is my journal. Art jewelry acts like a journal. The artist creates a starting point to trigger a conversation or reveal the phenomenon of our daily life in order to provoke thought. It records and summarizes every day, vents emotion, and expresses a point of view. My work expresses the complexity of human beings; all the facets are part of who we are and the mix of who we are. We cannot ignore the negative part to only just admit the positive one because both mix and create human nature to be more dynamic and unique. Then humans continually develop and seek to be better.
- Is there an artist or an artistic tendency that inspires or influences you particularly?
ZIHAN YANG: Tone Vigeland’s work is extraordinarily imposing and inspires me a lot.