We perceive the world in terms of language – indeed the entire process through which we make sense of experience, emotion and objects, are intrinsically bound to linguistic structures. It is not only that we give voice to thoughts and emotions through language, it is also the way by which we explain, categorise and understand our physical and metaphysical experiences and surroundings. As a result of the linguistic process, we are able to derive meaning to not only better understand the world in which we find ourselves, but also to identify and establish the locality of the ‘self’. Through this we are enabled to come to terms with and make sense of all that constitutes the vast concept of ‘self’. In this regard, a ‘process of placement’ marks the experience of ‘self’ as complex and limitless.
A ‘process of placement’ is essentially a process of meaning-making, where meaning is obtained through our creation and interpretation of signs. By semiotic definition a sign consists of both signifier (the ‘form’ of the sign, be it a sensory perception or a material object) and signified (the concept the ‘form’ eventually represents). Signs make sense only in relation to one another, and what eventuates is a potentially eternal back and forth reflection of meaning within a limitless chain of signifiers. This relation between sensory perceptions and forms of meaning-making is of special significance to Angela Tölken’s work.
The creative process of Tölken employs elements of the free associative method of psychoanalysis. Free association was initially used in aforementioned field to guide subjects in relating anything that came to their minds during an analytic session without censoring their thoughts. The use of this technique was intended to aid in discovering notions that the subjects developed in their unconscious minds.
Contemporary psychoanalyst Christopher Bollas draws a direct comparison between psychoanalysis and the act of entering into an artist’s workplace. He views both practices as processes to which subjects can surrender themselves, and through which the subject’s notion of self can be articulated. Bollas acknowledges the influence of free association on creative expression and compares the artist’s expression to the wide range of human emotions that colours and changes the subject’s internal canvas. In the same way that free associative writing can provide signifiers of the unconscious sign systems, the artistic process can produce signifiers to aid in the intricate meaning-making process. In the context of Angela’s work, her final jewellery piece is the product of an entire chain of associations of which a series of sub-processes are the links – each one being a signified of the previous and a signifier of the next. In this series of free associations, each concept and its visual counterpart leave a trace in an ever-complex unconscious canvas.
Tölken’s initial pencil-on-paper designs follow a free associative approach. Shapes and ideas flow unrestricted as reflections of her unconscious mind. Upon completing this step, she reworks these drawings on paper by adding colour and texture – once again relying on the associations called forth in the moment of creation. The next step involves a more controlled conceptualisation and elimination process, but even in this Angela tries to be led by the process and the designs themselves. They are then reworked on paper at least once more to add technical detail. After this, depending on the need of the design, she interprets some ideas three-dimensionally in paper. Through this process the models inevitably evolve through further interpretation. Only then will Tölken begin the manufacturing process in metal.
Angela’s interpretation of the two-dimensional drawings or three-dimensional paper models remains loose and open to the influences of her unconscious. In Tölken’s own words: “Even though I have a specific idea regarding what I would like to achieve with a piece, I let myself be preceded and led by the piece i.e., I let it become what it wants to become – I merely give the piece what it needs.” The ‘origin’ of her entire expression (her unconscious mind) and the ‘end’ (her final piece) are central to her creative methodology.
All pieces on exhibition are personal and intuitive relics of meaning originating somewhere deep within herself – directed towards this place as well as to each other. Angela’s artworks are the tangible jewellery pieces on display, but along with this are the invisible chains of meaning smithed in her unconscious.
Marnell Kirsten – Jewellery designer and freelance researcher