• The words we use become the homes we live in – Artist’s statement pertaining to the series Between the Lines (English only)

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    As an avid reader and a keen, yet critical listener I have for quite some time been aware that words and phrases have an effect on my emotions and psyche, especially when originating from lyrics and literature. Only fairly recently, however, have I come to realize that everyday words relating to myself (irrespective of whether they originate from myself or from others), have a profound (long-term) impact on my Self. Put differently: I have come to believe that the effects of words incrementally amalgamate into a house or home for the psyche.

    A house, usually understood as a three-dimensional structure enclosing and structuring space, essentially constitutes a protective and enabling shelter for its occupants. In order to transform the mere structure into an abode for living in, a house’s inhabitants usually leave a personalized imprint on it, be it through practical and / or decorative means, consequently giving meaning and purpose to an otherwise empty shell. By doing so, the occupants of a house inevitably represent and express themselves. A home, either as a specific arrangement of rooms or simply as a particular place / space, can thus be understood as a room for and a room of the Self, — a space which empowers the Self whilst at the same time mirroring the Self in various ways. Since the Self is affected by its physical surroundings as much as it shapes that very environment, a complex inter-relation ensues.

    The concept of an inter-relation between the Self and its surroundings can be extended to the realm of the psyche. Words relating or referring to the Self have an impact on it which I believe solidify into a specific frame-of-mind over time, subsequently influencing the beliefs, actions and vocabulary employed by the Self. The effects of words thus amalgamate into a structure around the psyche, and thus by extension into a house / home1.

    Throughout the body of work presented as part of the Between the Lines series, the house constitutes the main visual element, representing a “contour around an interior”2. As a shape, the house has retained key archetypal elements such as windows and / or doors and containing walls. Nonetheless it can be interpreted on various different levels: as an architectural study, a 3-dimensional exploration of structure, an interplay of surfaces and spaces, a container of memory or as a symbol of home, self, family and inter-personal experiences where walls enclose either lovingly and protecting, or threatening and debilitating3.

    As small objects the houses dwell on detail, and they are not overtly demanding attention. As such they reflect the private and the hidden of everyday existence4. Their purpose is to facilitate the representation and

    “(…) interpretation of the closest, the concrete, the everyday. For in the proximate, the daily, the apparently small, there is hidden (…) the metaphysical; the here-and-now is the place where meaning is disclosed, where our existence must find interpretation, if it can find interpretation at all. That is what dwelling, or the space of dwelling, is: something proximate, daily, apparently small (…)”5.

    Not only do the houses or dwellings advance the interpretations of everyday, private experiences, but also a process of coming-to-terms-with, acceptance and closure. Since being construed as pieces of jewellery (meant to be worn on bodies moving through different environments and contexts), the houses, however, also cut across “the dividing lines between private and public, interior and exterior”6,mediating between inner and outer realities.

    The notion of words eventually forming a home for the psyche provides me with an apt visual vocabulary to explore various experiences with words relating to my Self, all the while trying to visually capture the deeper, more complex connotations of what is being ‘said’ between the lines and eventually effected. Whilst the auto-biographical nature of the subject matter is not without its challenges, it does tie in with my ever-present, underlying interest in jewellery as a means of self-portraiture.

     

    1 Words or a space, however, are not the only elements to constitute a home. Similarly to a home providing room for the Self in its various manifestations, so does the human body ‘provide room’ for the Self. The conceptual likeness between body and home allows for interesting parallels to be drawn, such as the strong visual correlation between the key elements of a human face (eyes and mouth within a frame), and the key Gestalt elements of a house (windows and a door within a frame). As with the home, the human body is inevitably utilized as a means of self-expression and its configuration has a marked influence on the Self and vice versa, again resulting in an inter-relation between the Self and that which surrounds it.

    2 Miniature art, in Veiteberg, J. (ed.). 2012. Konrad Mehus. Form follows fiction. Jewellery and objects. Stuttgart: Arnoldsche Art Publishers. p 75.

    3 Ibid.

    4 Ibid.

    5 Paul Tillich quoted from Abercrombie, S. 1990. A philosophy of interior design. Oxford: Westview Press, in Miniature art, in Veiteberg, J. (ed.). 2012. Konrad Mehus. Form follows fiction. Jewellery and objects. Stuttgart: Arnoldsche Art Publishers. p 75.

    6 Miniature art, in Veiteberg, J. (ed.). 2012. Konrad Mehus. Form follows fiction. Jewellery and objects. Stuttgart: Arnoldsche Art Publishers. p 75.

    Self [reflection] [representation] [expansion] – Artist’s statement (English only)

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    The complex process of expressing myself creatively is an intensely personal one and my works are strongly auto-biographical, albeit from hindsight. My jewellery inevitably refers to my personality and my context, acting as both a lens and a mirror – reflecting characteristics of my Self yet also acting as a window through which I discern hitherto unnoticed facets of my inner and outer reality.

    My strongly visual and tactile perception of the world around me is foregrounded in my current work. I do not set out with predefined, premeditated theoretical concepts, but rather design intuitively, allowing shapes/forms to freely emerge on paper. The subsequent development of such forms is solely determined by formal, aesthetic and technical considerations.

    As I translate chosen shapes into different materials, connotations and associations emerge which allow me to develop an understanding of what might have inspired that particular amalgamation of lines, colours and textures in space. It is thus only as forms evolve into three-dimensional objects that they start to suggest their own meaning, appearing to visually recollect, interpret, combine and express various of my sensory and emotive experiences. I work backwards, so to speak, or, in semiotic terms: I create signifiers (objects) based on formal and aesthetic considerations, which then slowly evolve into signifieds (concepts presented by the objects).

    It is through these visual and tactile interpretations of memories that I understand my work in terms of self-reflection, -representation and -expansion. The pieces are the clear result of my creative process and my methodology behind it, whilst they mirror my character traits, typify my Self and reference my past. Also, the pieces form a tangible analogy to my ever-present personal tendency to reflect, contemplate, wonder and philosophize. In a way, my pieces expand my cognitive and emotive activities – allowing my Self to spill into a tactile and visual space which allows me a fuller treatment and investigation of my on-going play with questions and answers.

    Whilst my work is neither as experimental nor as overtly conceptual as much of European, Asian and American contemporary jewellery currently is, it precisely captures today’s underlying notions of innovative art jewellery “[which] is strongly marked by emotions, personalities and gender, links between the old and the new, and also an emphasis on the aesthetics of materials” (Wolfgang Lösche, Head of Department for Fairs and Exhibitions, Handwerkskammer München und Oberbayern, in his preface to the catalogue of Schmuck 2010, Munich’s annual international competition and show for contemporary jewellery). My pieces are evocative, distinctly feminine and they reveal an express interest in the enormous formal and technical potential of metal. In using the here and now to recollect and interpret past moments, I connect past and present, creating something new from something old, yet with an inevitable reference to my African context.

     

    AnGela, October 2010

    Reflections of Self: Jewellery and chains of meaning. An independent essay accompanying the solo show ‘Self’. (English only)

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    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