Brilliant art historian, teacher, curator and author of authoritative publications dedicated to contemporary jewellery, Maria Cristina Bergesio was a fundamental figure who accompanied the growth of LAO – Le Arti Orafe school for many years, devoting herself to the PREZIOSA project since 2005 and helping to make the academy an internationally recognised reference training institution, offering young goldsmiths the tools to develop a critical awareness to go hand in hand with the necessary technical expertise.
In memory of such a pivotal personality in the international critical debate on contemporary jewellery, on 30th March 2021, exactly one year after her death, LAO launched the “Maria Cristina Bergesio Scholarship”, dedicated to those who wish to project their work towards horizons of artistic research.
For very many years LAO has pursued a policy of awarding many scholarships, both to Italian and foreign students. In particular, the scholarship named after Bergesio provides the development of a research project lasting one school year in the field of contemporary jewellery and includes attendance for workshops and theoretical lessons deemed useful, as well as the guidance of director Giò Carbone and an internal tutor.
The bursary is completely free of charge for lessons with the sole payment of the fee for insurance coverage and secretarial expenses.
The winner of its first edition was Federica Cogliandro, assisted in her research by Contemporary jewellery history teacher Alice Rendon.
Following the model of a constant exchange, Rendon asked the young goldsmith some questions about her experience at the first Italian academy dedicated to experimentation in the goldsmith’s field, founded in 1985 by Giò Carbone:
Your research in contemporary jewellery is about the ‘sign’, on a semantic, symbolic and expressive level. Which facets of meaning and creative potentialities you have been analyzing in your study?
My background is in Fine Arts and my artistic research, focused on the interaction and connection between different disciplines, originates from the study of the sign, with a dual and simultaneous development: graphic and material. The sign is the graphic metamorphosis of noumena into phenomena. It is the primigenial element of cosmogonic visions, a condensation of energy and form in gestation. It contains the dynamism of the gesture that determines it. It is a distillation of ideas, memories and experiences. It does not reproduce but it makes visible. In my works the vibrant particles of signs, like primordial matter in eternal movement, modulated in a myriad of rhythmic variations and stratified in a continuous flow, create a texture of which matter and light are the warp and weft.
The succession of small marks – traced, engraved, pressed – features the slow unfolding of form creating atmospheric textures and alternating light and shadow, solids and voids, compressions and rarefactions, illusory or tangible. The repetition of the gesture, the practice, allows the conjunction of technical expertise with an emotional expression. Every piece is a microcosm of my own cosmogony within an all-embracing macrocosm, individual yet universal.
Vision, perception and memory are closely linked.
To what extent did your time at LAO allow you to develop and direct your research?
What tools and in-depth opportunities have been helpful in increasing your technical competence and critical knowledge in the craft?
Thanks to the “Maria Cristina Bergesio” scholarship I could attend a goldsmithing course in LAO for one year which allowed me to broaden my knowledge in jewellery making, learning new skills and techniques but also to increase my knowledge on history of jewellery and to deepen my investigation about sign: analysing it through formal and conceptual assonances and mutual influences between history of art and jewellery.
Through the analysis of some artworks and artistic movements (i.e. Informal art, optical art, conceptual art) the sign is fathomed from different perspective – sign-gesture/sign-form/sign-optical/sign-memory/sign-trace – showing how it is at the same time ‘matter’ and ‘instrument’ of knowledge, expression, stratification of impressions, memories, sometimes sedimented, praised and recomposed and other times instantaneous, impetuous in a free flow of gesture and emotions.
I would also like to mention a collaboration project with the photography school Fondazione Studio Marangoni and LAO which resulted in a photography exhibition that emerged from the exchange of ideas and visions between jewellery and photography students. My partner for this project was the photographer Elisa Norcini, we were both interested in experimenting as much as possible, exploring each other’s world in order to create a body of work which reflects both our voices, designed and executed together. It was and exciting and enriching experience to work with her, a great opportunity and a stimulating challenge that led to “TRACCE”: two series of photographs shot with an analog camera where the sign – of light, engraved or scratched – creates a weave of light and shadows, a trace of time, of emotions, individual feelings reminiscent of sidereal interrelations.
On the first series my jewellery pieces are interpreted and mixed with my printmaking works by Elisa’s camera eye while on the photos of the second series have been manipulated by the means of metal points, engraving tools and gouache, the result of a mingling of different techniques and disciplines, merging together our languages in an open and interdisciplinary work, learning from each other.
The Florence Jewellery Week 2022 took place this spring – a cultural event curated by LAO that consisted of a series of exhibitions and lectures addressing the topic of body decoration from an all-embracing and multidisciplinary perspective. As a contemporary jewellery maker, do you think it was an enriching experience?
Indeed. The FJW was an opportunity to reflect and discuss the multiple facets of contemporary jewellery nowadays, how jewellery became an extension of our body and mind, trigger of emotions and mirror of both personal and collective experiences and memories. I appreciated the interdisciplinary approach of the FJW programme with an emphasis on how craft, artistic research and cutting-edge technologies intertwine and inform each other and the particular attention to current topics such as the sustainability of the chosen materials. The various exhibitions have given a broad perspective through the artworks of master goldsmiths and new jewellery makers, stimulating a dialogue between generations. The two-day seminar during which the artists themselves, art historians and researchers were giving lectures was filled with thoughtful conversation. A very enriching and inspiring experience overall.
The new scholarship holder for the academic year 2022-2023 is Daniela Saadi, from Argentina, who trained in Fine Arts in her hometown of Buenos Aires, ranging between painting, drawing, collage, engraving and contemporary jewellery workshops. After a ten-year career as an art therapist, in 2019 she chose to focus on ornamentation as a specific expressive medium which nurtures and expands her artistic research.
I am currently working on a research project based on jewellery and contemporary art. A project that I have called “El lenguaje de las cosas” (The language of things) and that takes into account the factors that come into play in the migratory experience, from my personal narrative, focusing on language and the concept of territory, through a series of pieces and works of art that give materiality to what I have researched. My production establishes relationships between different techniques, materials and supports. I find interesting the dialogue that is generated in the contrast of materials of different nature. – Explained Daniela.
We look forward to the outcomes of this new exploratory journey!