NORD, La Joaillerie par Mazlo, Paris

8 October - 19 December 2020

Nord is both the Danish and the French word for North. All five jewellery artists, Castello Hansen, Annette Dam, Marie-Louise Kristensen, Kaori Juzu and Per Suntum, that exhibit under the title ‘nOrd – bijoux danois contemporain’, practice in the northern region of Europe. One was born in Japan and one has moved to Sweden, but we could frame the practice of all five artists by the proverbial concept of ‘Danish Design’. And maybe we should; in order to expand the slightly stiffened concept of Danish Design to include wildly different pieces of ground-breaking contemporary artwork.

If one draws a line through the o in nord, the Danish word for ‘nerd’ appears. In Danish ‘nørd’ has lost its one-sidedly derogatory meaning. A Danish ‘nørd’ is no longer a spiteful term for the stereotypical socially awkward savant with an abnormal interest and knowledge in limited subject matters within computer or natural sciences. Increasingly ‘nørd’ lovingly connotes passionate and knowledgeable amateurs or professionals that are enthusiastic, borderline obsessed, with all kinds of different subjects.

Consequently, ‘nørd’ has evolved in to the verbal form, ‘at nørde’ - to nerd. Apparently the English verb ‘to nerd‘ has inherited the derogatory meaning of nerd meaning the act of flaunting knowledge, which no one else cares about. But in Danish I would use the verb to describe any enthusiastic immersion and or disciplined exploration in to a subject or practice. A positive act entirely. And a term that would beautifully encompass the practise of all five jewellery artists in the exhibition however different their resulting works appear.

All five jewellery artists have one more common denominator; the Danish Arts Foundation has acquired works by all five artists incorporating them into one of the most extraordinary jewellery collections. Not only does the Danish Arts Foundation continuously buy pieces to support Danish creators of jewellery on the highest artistic level, the Foundation is also dedicated to bring art jewellery to the Danish public and to use. A unique loan scheme literally makes the jewellery in the collection available for loan. Any Dane with an active role at an official event can apply to borrow a piece of jewellery from the collection. In return, the borrower must act as an ambassador for Danish art jewellery and the borrowed piece at the event – using the piece of jewellery to strike up conversations, highlight the theme of the event or illustrate a point. The loan scheme thereby makes nerdy artistic endeavours available as conversation pieces, and as such, the works of Castello Hansen, Annette Dam, Marie-Louise Kristensen, Kaori Juzu and Per Suntum are all in great demand.

In the title of LA Joaillerie by Mazlo gallery’s exhibition, Per Suntum’s brooch, round as an ‘o’ and cut diagonally by a thin line, cleverly replaces the O in nOrd implying the Danish vocal ø and the act of nerding. Goldsmith and jewellery artist Per Suntum dives deep in to materials and brings them to the surface with gentle techniques, elegantly displaying raw materials for our eyes to contemplate. He has described the basis of his earthy poetry as “…the singular moment, where man meets material and purpose stirs the soul into expression.”

For many years Per Suntum and Kaori Juzu have worked and lived together on the island of Bornholm – the only place in Denmark where you can experience rocky cliffs and rift valleys. Like the rocks of Bornholm Kaori Juzu’s enamel jewellery seems to have been touched by millions of years of rough weather and mossy vegetation. However, the flat angled metal sheets that compose Kaori Juzu’s jewellery gain their delicate surfaces from the artist’s self-invented enamel technique. She covers the surfaces with enamel powder without melting it as it is most often, thereby maintaining each grain’s distinct colour and depth and turning the surface in to a minuscule landscape. To better describe the unconventional nature of her jewellery and the warm feeling the small items gives her, Kaori Juzu uses the Danish word, ‘klenodie’, or treasure.

Marie-Louise Kristensen’s narrative approach to jewellery is almost as rare as rocky cliffs in Denmark. Her jewellery pieces are figurative comments on and examinations of personal or societal issues. Increasingly they show up as bodily creatures and vehicles that perform an act of sculptural storytelling before our eyes. As in all other matters, Marie-Louise Kristensen’s jewellery personas are funny because their extroverted fireworks are the results of an introverted sensibility to what is true and vulnerable and common. Her pieces reach us like a shared smile with a stranger in the crowd and the element of surprise function as an invitation for the beholder to engage. She has said: “I’m able to avoid censoring myself. And that leaves room for surprises. I’m not afraid of the hackneyed, but I move beyond the gimmicky by adding layers and, thus, ambiguity.”

Marie-Louise Kristensen and Annette Dam have cofounded Art Jewellery Copenhagen as a platform for activities to promote Danish art jewellery. As in her colleague’s practice Annette Dam also examine societal issues and personal life experiences through her work. Annette Dam create wearable art works that question conformity while maintaining their function as good-looking jewellery. Her pieces revolve around the act of questioning; they evolve from thorough analyses of concepts that lead to well thought out and critical responses. Annette Dam recognises how our values and customs solidify in objects and words. Within her practise as a jewellery artist, she deconstructs and reconstructs these objects and words to highlight the way we communicate through objects and how value is ingrained in objects and our handling of them. Annette Dam’s work results in socially subversive and insanely sexy pieces.

Words and storytelling however are silenced in the art works of goldsmith Castello Hansen. He processes precious and nonprecious materials with both new and classical goldsmithing techniques. He performs his experimentation with materials and techniques with deep deliberation and perfection shaping his aesthetic with traces of the process. Simultaneously his works achieve a striking clarity in form and execution while tickling the senses with surprising contrasts. The effect evades words and definitions and leaves the beholder in the optimal state of satisfaction and hunger. In his works there seems to be an absence at work. Something that is not there completes the work: a skull that is hardly visible in the place of the brooch where one would expect a portrait in a medallion; the missing edge of a rectangular form. Or maybe it is the lack of words. Every word I ever read by Castello Hansen on his jewellery essentially says there are no words, only jewellery.

Anni Nørskov Mørch, 2020