Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Bettina Speckner

Bettina Speckner - Posting seen here

I've had the work of German jeweller, Bettina Speckner in my mind recently. I saw some pieces in the flesh earlier in the year on Galerie ra's stand at Collect: The International Art Fair for Contemporary Objects held in Saatchi's new King's Road Gallery in the old Duke of York's HQ in Chelsea. Mostly, I have seen her work online only - which is a handicap, tactile, 3d objects rendered into two dimensions remove them from their function somewhat. The charged atmosphere of a fair was not particularly conducive either - there is something quiet and discreet about her jewellery that requires a little considered contemplation.

I am drawn to the nostalgic patina of her work, it appears to offer something emotional even sentimental, but curiously keeps us at a slight distance. Often using photographs - both found Victorian portraits and her own landscape and still life images - there is a deliberate anonymity to the images. A resistance to narrative. Its an interestingly dissociated experience, the portraits in particular should invite us to speculate on the stories and personalities of their subjects, but the considered use of materials and composition somehow displace that relationship.

Bettina Speckner - posting seen here

The use of pearls, diamonds, precious and semi-precious stones juxtaposed with the images do something strange to the surface - they break the fourth wall of our reverie and place us in a more ironic, self aware relationship. The fixings are visible and integral to the pieces which further strengthens that unsettling sense of detachment. These images have become precious objects, functional pieces of jewellery to be worn and admired. There are historical contexts for the work with references to Baroque and Renaissance jewellery through her handling of pearls and stones and through that association the conspicuous statement of wealth and possession. There's a slight discomfort in that relationship - the nature of the images and their dislocation through process challenge and subvert the concept of adornment and its social purpose.

Bettina Speckner has been trained both in a fine arts environment and in craft making processes. Those disciplines both find their expression in her jewellery pieces. There is a fine sensibility rooted in painting and a deep understanding of abstract form, however her work is steeped in the processes of its making and that attention to formal technique adds to its aura of alienation. This in turn reinforces the atmosphere of melancholy that permeates her images and her finished pieces.

Bettina Speckner - posting seen here

That very sense of separation from the emotion of the pieces is intriguing and paradoxically seductive. It lends a tantalising sense of inscrutability to the work, a barring of the way which triggers a perennial dichotomy - the less accessible the more desirable.

I wonder what happens when you wear one of these pieces? When you become the ground for it to inhabit, when you place yourself behind it or against it, when you come to know the other side of the piece and its mechanics, the weight and balance of its physicality. I would love to know!

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