Searching the origins of contemporary jewellery
A piece of goldsmithery, like any other work by man, cannot come from the mere execution of a customary act or be passively reproduced by basing it on pre-conceived schemes, as is commonly the case. Such an operation would lead to insignificant and anonymous product and would not be in any way creative
In 2019 I’ve visited Marino Marini Museum of Pistoia where was on a display an amazing exhibition of three major Italian masters of contemporary jewelry: Mario Pinton, Francesco Pavan, and Giampaolo Babetto. At the time I thought I saw watching the classics of the jewellery, but the last trends in accessories design made me think to revisit my memories and archives. It looks as modern, complete in their concept and up-to-date as none of the runaway collections is today.
Characterized by two intertwining aspects, simplicity and quality, impressed in the art of Mario Pinton and then resumed by Pavan and Babetto, the exhibition consisted of a wide selection of works that collect over 150 jewels from the early Fifties until in our day.
The common elements that make it possible to establish affinities and parallels between three artists are the purity of form, sense of balance and geometrical proportion, an idea that the value of the piece depends on its original design.
The exhibition starts with the curious fact that reveals the relationship between Pinton and Mario Marini, who was was an Italian artist best known for his figurative equestrian sculptures and unlike many others artists of the last century, he didn’t make any jewelry except two golden rings for his wife Marina. The surface texture of his sculptures seems to follow certain jewelry technicques. Marini often enriched the surface of his sculptures with chisel work and corrosive dyes.
Marino Marini taught Mario Pinton sculpture techniques at the Istituto Industrie Artistiche in Monza and this training couldn’t but influenced on the artistic reseach of the future goldsmith. He worked jewellery as a sculptor, sensitive to the expressive properties of gold, which was not associated with its preciousness, but its technical malleability and elasticity that earlier was so valuable for goldsmiths.
His working with metal reveals a strong affinity with the classical art of ancient Greece and Rome.
His artistic craftsmanship allowed him to create simple pieces of modern jewelry distinguished by great harmony and sophistication. In his beginning, Pinton’s language is influenced by figurative primitivism, then slowly reducing the figures to replace them with an increasingly geometric and essential abstraction, focusing on the constructive power of the line, minimal segments structured in elementary geometric spaces whose surfaces are moved by reticular structures that the chasing technique makes light, aerial, and, at the same time, incisive. He established an even closer dialogue between jewelry and body.
In 1944 Pinton started to teach at the Pietro Selvatico industrial arts institution in the northern Italian town of Padua. There was no separate gold-working section, but his innovations and artistic visions in teaching led to the establishment of what was later to be called the “Metalwork and Jewelry” department. Here he introduced his craft and theory to Francesco Pavan and, later, to Giampaolo Babetto.
His student Francesco Pavan overcame the two-dimensional abstraction of the master, attracted by the multiple expressive possibilities of three-dimension. Multiplying and connecting simple elements he created combinatorial solutions of complex structures. He also studied more mechanical techniques and the surfaces of his jewelry multiplied into cromatic variations.
Giampaolo Babetto’s research is characterized by a careful study of geometric shapes, volumes and movement looking for a constant balance. The colors contrasted from gold in the whole range of its colors to the juxtaposition of the niello and differents pigments predominantly red and blue.
Jewellery or sculpture? Accessory or an art object?
Their jewelry took the forms from the shape of jewelry itself that, according to their artistic vision, should not be lost or hidden by the weight of too many precious stones or another decorative elements.
“The emotion inspired by the material substance, filtered by the knowledge of the master, returns to the material as an object, bringing it to life and giving it its own expressive value”, said Pinton.
His rings and bracelets are designed following the single line, while his brooches reflects bright play of abstraction.
As Pavan mentioned: “A piece of jewelry should not be a personal expression, but instead be cold, asbstract and devoid of any figurative elements and references to the organic world. And the best way to achieve this is to refere to the world of geometry”.
His necklaces reach extraordinary lenghts, brooches are linear structures that reach out into space.
Giampaolo Babetto made a point about his work: “Certainly the jewelry the I make has a clear form. However I hope that it is possible to understand that it possesse interior as well as exterior qualities. In any case, I try to give each piece an inner life and thus instil it with a soul. Only then can a piece of jewelry acquire a form that can establish some communication with its observer”.
He uses colors and resins and in the nineties his sober style took on a line of precious and subtle figuration.
The reference to architecture in the works of Babetto is very strong and has a great importance. Sometimes his jewelry is a line of rigid structures that are dominated by imbalance and diconnections.
For me works of those three artist together are not just origins of the contemporary jewellery but also a true pleasure to observe the purity of form, philosophy behind the concepts and amazing artistic language.