Thursday, 27 September 2012

The Art Nouveau Period (1880 to 1915 :) by Giselle

René Lalique, French, 1860 - 1945
Dragonfly woman corsage ornament,
1897 - 1898
gold, enamel, chrysoprase, moonstones, and diamonds, 23 x 26.5 (9 x 10 3/8)

ELLA NAPER 1886-1972 Lily-pad Hair Combs  Green-tinted horn, with moonstone dewdrops
Length: 9 cm Width: 6.8 cm
English. Circa 1906
Art Nouveau ("New Art") was one of the first departures from classical art and design, towards a new modernism and it took placefrom the 1880s until world War I . This avant-garde movement was centred in Western Europe and occurred in France during what was known as the "La Belle Epoque" period, or "beautiful era" of the late 19th and 20th centuries. In Germany the Art Nouveau movement was known as the " Jugendstil," or :"youth style" arts and crafts movement, in Spain the movement was called Modermismo and in Austria Sezessionstil. It was a reaction against the historical and academic emphasis of the19th century although it did not survive World War I.

Buckle Silver Chalcedony
German, c.1900

Art Nouveau was not only a style but it was a thought of modern society and and the various production methods. It was an effort to define the significance and temperament of the work of art.
Artworks by Gustav Klimt and Aubrey Beardsley
Art Nouveau stressed hand crafting as divergent to mechanized form of production. This decorative art movement placed emphasis on the idea of functional art and encouraged making everyday items into artwork.

European Art Nouveau architecture

Art Nouveau was considered a “total style” as it influenced a broad spectrum of design: these included architecture, interior design, decorative arts, textiles, printing and illustration, lighting, painting,household silverware ,furniture, jewellery as well as a wide range of other visual arts.

The specific ornamental characteristics of Art Nouveau included organic figures, and curved , asymetrical, undulating lines, that were often taking the form of flower stalks and buds, insect wings, vine tendrils and other sinuous and delicate natural objects. Floral patterns and leaves were also widely used. Some of the floral motifs that were used were borrowed from English artist William Morris, founder of the “Art and Crafts Movement” of the late Victorian era. Other common themes included stylized, curvaceous and graceful images of women, sometimes depicted as mermaids, nymphs and fairies complete with long manes of twisting hair. . Animals and birds, bees, butterflies, dragonflies also made an appearance in the movement's imagery and often these creatures were incorporated into jewellery pieces such as necklaces and brooches. The colours used were often bright and clearly defined.
Wallpaper and sketch by William Morris

What the designers of this period had in common was an interest in finding a new artistic vocabulary that could best describe and express the modern world. They found their greatest inspiration in nature – not necessarily nature's beauty - but instead it's never changing life cycle of birth, life, decay and death.

 RenĂ© Lalique, French, 1860 - 1945

Jewellery was one of the purest, and most successful expressions of Art Nouveau style, using sensuous lines and organic forms to create a vast range of exceptional beauty and inventiveness. The Art Nouveau jewellers experimented with new forms, materials and techniques focusing more on the originality and beauty of the piece not only the intrinsic value of the materials used. Jewellery made from wood, bone, and brass became popular and enamelling was was extensively used. The best examples of Art Nouveau jewellery in my opinion would be the pieces created by Rene Lalique who was recognized as one of France's foremost Art nouveau jewellery designers and went onto be the most famous in his field, his name synonymous with creativity and quality.


Tuesday, 18 September 2012

translating nature

by Adi Cloete

"Originality consists of returning to the origins." Antoni Gaudi


In today's blog I share my amazement with 
Spanish architect Antoni Gaudi (1852-1926), known for his architecture that seems as if from a fiary tale!His work include Casa Mila, Casa Batllo, Park Guell and Sagrada Familia, all in Barcelona.

Park Guell

I particularly enjoy how he's fascination with nature was a major inspiration for his designs and ideas in architecture. Vast decorative mosaics are also distinctive of his work. 

Construction of Sagrada Familia started in 1882. Gaudi became involved in the project in 1883. After his death in 1926, work continued despite facing various challenges over the extended period of construction, still in progress. It is anticipated that Sagrada Familia will be completed in 2026. 

Familia Sagrada

Going up the tower of the Sagrada Familia reveals spectacular views over the city, stone carved detail and stacked mosaic fruit towers in the heavens high above for lucky birds to see.

bird's view

And then down,down,down...
the stone spiral staircase

Botanical detail can be seen all over...
Pinnacles in the shape of flower buds,branches of a passion fruit tree, vines and columns resembling tree trunks. The structure of Familia Sagrada is created by a forest of trees, inside the temple.

Forest inside

Dome resembles the foliage of forest trees

I am fascinated with the process that combine creativity, maths and science to translate the inspiration drawn from nature into an architectural wonder. 

"That great tree is my teacher."

Saturday, 1 September 2012

Of Dragons and Men

Of Dragons and Men

Wax carving is what I do most of the time and am fortunate enough to enjoy this miniature world of detail. Once carved the wax piece is translated into metal by means of a lost wax casting process. The actual carving of wax is time consuming (well, the way I go about it..), The kind of detail that I like means that having a compulsive obsessive disposition is an advantage in this choice of medium. It also means I have plenty of time for contemplation under the guise of being hard at work. Wax carving is such that part of my attention is focused on what I am doing, while the greater part of my thinking can wonder and contemplate at will.
A double finger ring I carved of a Dragon

As a theme for our exhibition, the Fine ounce collective conceived the title “Breath of Fire”, 2012 being the year of the Dragon. I have been joyously carving along this theme, when I can. While busy with carving my thoughts have been a’ wandering and wondering on the subject of Dragons …

Where did the myth of the Dragon originate? The presence of the Dragon myth in most of the worlds ancient cultures suggests to me that such a creature might once have existed and if so where were its beginnings.

It seems that the very first written creation stories of the world (uncovered so far) are from the Sumerian civilization, generally in the area we call Mesopotamia. The word ‘dragon’ as we know it today, only came later with the Greek civilization. Much of the philosophy, cosmology and religion of these later civilizations evolved from the earlier Sumerian myths. The Sumerians depicted these Serpent dragons guarding treasures, holding back floods and dispensing knowledge. Gods and Heroes alike also battle them.
In earlier Asian mythologies Dragons are either Gods or messengers to the Gods. As in earlier Middle Eastern stories the Dragons are most often associated with water and wisdom. However unlike the Middle Eastern and later European stories where there is fighting amidst Dragons, Gods and man, the Asian Dragon is generally benevolent.

 Dragons exist today as myth and fantasy where real understanding has faded, so too has the significance of the symbolism surrounding the concept of Serpents and Dragons. I am thinking specifically of the Caduceas, which is a winged staff with two snakes wrapped around it associated with the Greek God Hermes; and the Ouroboros, which is an image of a Serpent holding its tail in its mouth

The Caduceus is generally perceived as a symbol for medicine. It was only in the 7th century that it came to be associated with a precursor for medicine. It is often interchangeable with the ‘Rod of Aselepuis’ (single snake, no wings). These symbols origins however, date as early as 2600 BC in Mesopotamia and there are several references to a Caduceus like symbol in the Bible. Historically, these two symbols had distinct meanings in astrological alchemical principles and are perceived by some scholars to represent a DNA double helix. There are others of the opinion that Dragons are linked to the winged gods from the heavens that came to earth to create the human race and are a very important symbology in the creational blueprint of our reality
The other significant Serpent dragon symbol still prevalent today is the Ouroboros. It’s existence is can be traced back to ancient Egypt circa 1600 BC. Most evident in ancient Gnostic texts, the Ouroboros is any image of a snake, worm, serpent or dragon biting it’s own tail. It generally takes the form of a circle but is also interchangeable with a figure 8 shape (mostly known as an infinity symbol). It can represent many concepts- time, life continuity, completion, the repetition of history, the self- sufficiency of nature and the rebirth of the Earth. The Ouroboros (and Caduceus) symbol has also been associated with Kundalini energy. The Ouroboros is evident in many societies throughout history, seen in ancient Egypt, Japan, India, Greek alchemical texts, European woodcuts, Native American Indian tribes and by the Aztecs.
An interesting angle on the significance of the Ouroboros is that of Swiss psychologist Karl Jung. He interprets this symbol as archetypal to the human psyche. As such he describes the Ouroboros as a dramatic symbol for integration and assimilation of the opposite, that is the shadow aspect of the unconscious.


There are also ideas around the Ouroboros being an astrological alchemical symbol. This mythology implies that the Milky Way Galaxy keeps a time cycle that ends in great and possibly catastrophic change when the serpent eats it’s tail (at the end of this tail of reality). Suntelia Aion is the sun rising out of the mouth of the Ouroboros, which allegedly occurs on December 21, 2012- representing the evolution of consciousness in the alchemy of time.

What is beyond grasp is where fantasy and fact collide. Knowledge eludes, as true understanding is just a faint image in the mist of time.

Meagan Meredith