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Diploma 2017 in the ADBK Munich (5/5): Emi Fukuda

Diploma 2017 in the ADBK Munich (5/5): Emi Fukuda

“If I create from the heart, nearly everything works, if from the head, almost nothing.” – Marc Chagall

Emi Fukuda and I have a similar approach to our creative processes. Our work doesn’t have its starting point with a rational idea we want to express or a defined statement that we want to make. Emi and I are “emotional makers”. We let our pieces evolve in an intuitive process, which embraces spontaneity and experimental play. This is just how creating comes most naturally to us. Emi wrote in her artist statement: “I like to think that my works are not made, but in a sense, they grow into existence.” Having found the perfect word to embody this “organic” way of creating, Emi titled her diploma show Flow.

The difficulties this way of creating present to me is that it is much harder to talk about emotional rather than rational and intellectual processes. How do you talk about things that came from a place within you, that you yourself might not really understand? Which leads me to the question: Does an artist have to talk and write about her/his work?

In general, I would say that it is completely ok if an artist does not talk and write about his/her work, no matter for what reasons. The work itself should do most of the talking anyhow in my point of view. But: I realized that not writing and talking about the work is limiting an artist´s possibilities to promote the work significantly. In the past, I avoided circumstances which required words of mine about my work. But after a while, there was just no way around it anymore. The more I managed to get my work out there, the more often it was requested that I talk and write about it. The truth is that being an artist is not only about creating anymore, artists today have to be multitalented and super-creative on many levels. In our digitised, globalised world, artists have to be some kind of all-round performers, and if you have a way with words, that is definitely an ability that will prove most helpful on countless occasions.

Unfortunately, the ambition to capture the audience sometimes happens at the expense of the artists’ authenticity. On several occasions, it occurred to me that I was sitting in an artist talk, and the artist took away the magic of the work for me by trying too hard: a sophisticated, intellectual approach that seemed forced, a cascade of historic references or gimmicky notions…. Just to make the point that words don’t necessarily help the work.

So, if you really don’t want or can’t write and talk about your work, why not let somebody else do it for you? This will happen sooner or later anyhow by art historians, journalists, curators, gallery owners etc. I gained good and not so good experiences with that. In the best case the writer has the knowledge, the imagination and the sensitivity to write something that is doing justice to the artworks. Some people wrote texts about my work, which really were great, much better than anything I could have ever written. Some planted misguiding conclusions, which were picked up by others and developed further. One interview with a Dutch guy went so totally the wrong way that in the end I asked him to not publish anything. I felt that he completely misunderstood my work and that this interview would be only counterproductive.

When I began to understand that there was no way for me of not writing and talking about my work, I started to put my work and myself (as an artist) under the looking glass. Which kind of words beside technical details could I find to make my work more approachable? What could increase rather than diminish the expression of my pieces, but still keep my authenticity as an “emotional maker”? I am still looking for answers while I am trying out different approaches.
For the catalogue of the exhibition, Where Blue Hides After Dark in Sienna Gallery, I wrote a kind fairy tale about the colour Blue, which derived from a dream I had. I felt that worked really well. Lately, I have been writing short stories and a couple of song lyrics in relation to my work. All this might not explain the work in the common sense, but it adds another layer, offers another angle. The good thing was that the more I was trying to find solutions for this lack of words, the more I really did understand my work and working process. I figured out that even though I work mainly through my emotions, there are some rational aspects about it nevertheless. And this made it easier for me to write and talk about my pieces in a theoretic way of course. For the “emotional maker”, this process might take more time, but it is surely worth the effort. After all, working spontaneously, intuitively and through your emotions is also just a concept, which can be pinned down.

So, finally back to Emi’s diploma show (sorry, Emi…). Emi normally prefers not to talk or write about her work, but for this blogpost, Emi agreed to put some aspects of her work into words.

Carina: Why don’t you like to talk about your work?

Emi: I want to ignore everything to do with a concept. Like a child, I emphasize the joyful and playful experiment. I want to be almost out of control, touch the primitive part of me… creation should be free! I want people to be totally open about it when they see my work and maybe find a similarly and free playful approach to it. Curiosity is the most important thing when you make or look at art.

Carina: Tell me a bit more about the pieces that you displayed in your diploma show titled Flow.

Emi: Casting is an important process for me now, and for the diploma show, I focused on the casting of aluminum. I made countless experiments, most of which did not work out. I took much time and risk for that. First, I used wax to create the forms and then built moulds with plaster. Then the metal is cast. I love the process of casting, because it is pure. The metal is poured and structured in the moment. It then emerges in a new shape… like a life itself.

Carina: From where do you get the ideas for your shapes? What inspires you?

Emi: The ideas for my work always come from memories, from something I experienced, a moment of its own life. For example, the ring titled Fragile is about a hurtful memory. I created an organic shape from transparent glass and cracked it to express the feeling of fragility. It was my first attempt in casting glass. I feel there is a lot of potential in this technique for me.

The idea for the necklace Portrait came from a portrait picture of mine. While I was looking at it, I recalled some experiences in my life, positively and negatively. Some chapters of my life. Then I created the necklace with these feelings and memories lingering. I built the shape of it with several wax blocks dynamically to express the accumulation of life experience.

In the brooch titled Flying to… I wanted to visualize the theme of changing and movement. This piece was formed beginning from the ground, grew and then morphed into butterfly-like creatures. The swarm of butterflies imply harmony, movement and the flow of time in space. Then they move to a new world of freedom and destiny. The base of the piece was formed in layers like sediment. It is like a mediator who connects the wearer to society and to the world.

Carina: You are also drawing a lot and you showed one of your drawings in your diploma show. Is drawing a fixed part of your creating process?

Emi: Yes. It is a very important part of my work. I think with the drawings I express another angle of my work, similar to what you do with your songs. My ideas come always from my daily life, and then I draw quickly. I draw normally just some simple sketches with pencil and water colour. A simple process can be more specific and stronger. I feel water colour best suits the way to connect to my jewellery pieces. Drawing with water seems like a pure process to me, similar to the pouring of metal.

Carina: What are your plans for the future?

Emi: I am in Japan now and will probably stay for a year or so. Then I will choose the best place where I should be. I would like to be here in Japan to absorb or re-understand my own culture to develop my work further. I was away for over 10 years and so many things have changed. It shocks me, but it is also nice to experience it.

Carina: Thanks, Emi!

Sool Park wrote a sensitive text for Emi, which she handed out in her diploma show. It starts like this: “Everything flows- even those things, which seem hard and immobile. So, what happens when the hard is flowing? Does it lose its hardness? Or is it rather showing its inner life, which never was hard?”

Emi Fukuda (born in 1980 in Osaka, Japan) graduated in 2013 from the Osaka University of Arts, Japan, as a Bachelor of Fine Arts. From 2007 until 2009, she studied at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology, Australia, in the gold-and silversmithing department and then from 2012 -2017 at the Academy of Fine Arts Munich, Germany, in the jewellery department.

1 Emi Fukuda: Invitation card for diploma show Flow, Photo: Emi Fukuda
2 Emi Fukuda: Diploma show Flow, Munich, 2017; Photo: Masayuki Nagata
3 Emi Fukuda: Diploma show Flow, Munich, 2017; Photo: Carina Shoshtary
4 Emi Fukuda: Diploma show Flow, Munich, 2017; Photo: Carina Shoshtary
5 Emi Fukuda: Portrait, Necklace, 2016; Aluminium, string; 6,5 cm x 8,5cm x 1,5 cm; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
6 Emi Fukuda: Flying to…, Brooch, 2016; Aluminium, steel wire; 7,0 cm x 5,5 cm x 3,5 cm; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
7 Emi Fukuda: Fragile, Ring, 2016; Aluminium, glass; 3,0 cm x 3,5 cm x 3,0 cm; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
8 Emi Fukuda: Diploma show Flow, Munich, 2017; Photo: Masayuki Nagata
9 Emi Fukuda: Diploma show Flow, Munich, 2017; Photo: Carina Shoshtary

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Diploma 2017 in the ADBK Munich (2/5): Nadine Kuffner

Nadine Kuffner and I have already worked together on several different levels: We shared a room during my last two years in the jewellery class, exhibited together and occasionally, Nadine was modeling for photos where she was wearing my jewellery. She was now one of the five graduates of the jewellery class of the Academy of Fine Arts Munich. Her diploma show was titled So What!

Nadine Kuffner (born 1982 in Munich, Germany) studied two semesters at the Contemporary Jewellery School Alchemia in Florence, Italy, before she completed an apprenticeship as a silversmith at the State Vocational College for Glass and Jewellery in Neugablonz, Germany, from 2004 until 2007. Afterwards she immediately enrolled at Konstfack, the University College of Arts, Crafts and Design, Stockholm, in the field of contemporary jewellery from where she graduated with a BA of Fine Arts. Since 2010, Nadine has studied in the jewellery class in Munich, first with Prof. Otto Künzli and then with Prof. Karen Pontoppidan.

Even though I know Nadine’s work, there was still plenty to discover for me in her exciting diploma show: She was presenting jewellery pieces and a wall piece all made of cast tin. On one wall, there was a necklace, which was apparently created by throwing the liquid tin directly on a chain, which was hung on the wall. The splashes ran down the wall and there were large spots on the floor. Next to it hung several oval pendants and a rectangular structured wall piece. The pedestals carried three very diverse necklaces. This is the conversation we had when I visited the show:

Nadine: I have been working for approximately one year now on this body of work, but it is part of a larger investigation, and I have been busy with it for quite a while now. I am examining and challenging different aspects of jewellery. Before the tin series, which I am showing here, I worked with bronze and cast massive pieces, which were not wearable because of their enormous weight. This brought the attention to other aspects of the adornment. This new series is scrutinising other facets of jewellery.

Carina: Are these new works made in a similar way to your bronze series, for which you used lost wax casting?

Nadine: No, these pieces are made differently. I heat up the tin on the hot plate, as it is melting at around 230 degrees. This enables me to work directly with the liquid material, which is really exciting for me.

Carina: So how do you create your shapes?

Nadine: I make negative forms from soft materials, e.g. for the really long necklace, I used self-drying clay, which I arranged in a ring-shaped heap on the floor, pressed a groove into it and poured the just melted tin inside. What you see there is the lower side of the casting. The proliferations were not planned of course, but I really like that they happened. I feel like I am doing some kind of collaboration with the material. The material has its own character and will, so the material and I are equally involved in the process of making. Of course, I make the decision in the end. Is the outcome going to be a jewellery piece or something else? Or will I quash the result and start anew?

Carina: What specifically is this series talking about when you say you are challenging aspects of jewellery?

Nadine: It’s about the craft of jewellery making, about what is expected from me as a maker of jewellery. Traditionally, jewellery making is precision work, for which you need to gather a lot of knowledge first. It normally also takes quite a lot of time and patience to make jewellery. With these pieces I am questioning these expectations towards the creating of jewellery, because the pieces were made in a brief moment and more by chance than by control and skills. (Nadine points to one of her pieces, a flat round pendant with cloudlike structures) And here I was drawing with the liquid tin.

Carina: How do you draw with liquid metal?

Nadine: I’d say it’s a kind of choreography of the material and me. It’s a technique, for which I am dripping and pulling the material, all in a matter of seconds. This piece here merely took a minute to make. So it is far away from the painstaking time-intensive work of goldsmiths. Of course, it took me plenty of time and countless tryouts though to understand how the material reacts and until I reached satisfying results. (Nadine points to the next necklace) And for this loop chain necklace, I used hematite stone powder, a stone which is also used for traditional jewellery. I pressed furrows inside the hematite sand and then cast the tin into it. The loops were not opened and hung into each other, but the next loop is cast as a link into the previous one.

Carina: And how is the wall-piece made?

Nadine: I folded the material and then forged it with a silversmithing hammer. Like this, the material got stretched more in some places than in others and when I unfolded it again, this three-dimensional shape emerged. It was exciting for me to create a piece of free art with the traditional technique of silversmiths to forge the metal with a hammer. I investigate the borders between fine arts and applied arts, I look at their relationship and question hierarchies.

Carina: I know that you are going to show during the Munich Jewellery Week in March now, I think even in several shows, right?

Nadine: As one of five finalists of the “Förderpreis der Kaufbeurer Künstlerstiftung”, my work will be part of a one-day exhibition in the Pinakothek der Moderne on Friday, the 10th of March, which is the same day of the opening of the Tone Vigeland show there in the museum. And “scattered flux” will be an exhibition of mine, together with Patrícia Domingues in Türkenstraße 78 from Wednesday the 8th until Sunday the 12th of March. In this exhibition, we will broach the issue of creating together and I am looking forward to working with someone, who does or did not study in the jewellery class in Munich, as I hope to experience a totally different approach to the theme.

Carina: Great, I am looking forward to that. May I ask what are your plans now for the near future?

Nadine: I am staying in Munich and I want to continue with my work in this direction. I have been studying and creating in the field of contemporary jewellery for already 13 years and ever since got totally hooked, so I want to keep at it and hope that I will develop my career.

Carina: I have no doubt that you will, but I still wish you the best of luck!

1 Nadine Kuffner: Invitation card for diploma show So What!, Photo: Nadine Kuffner; Layout: Future Playground
2 Nadine Kuffner: Diploma show So What!, Munich, 2017; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
3 Nadine Kuffner: Diploma show So What!, Munich, 2017; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
4 Nadine Kuffner: 169, Necklace 2017; Tin; Photo: Carina Shoshtary
5 Nadine Kuffner: A Jeweller’s Anarchy, Pendant, 2017; Tin, string; Photo: Masayuki Nagata
6 Nadine Kuffner: Ösenkette, Necklace, 2017; Tin; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi
7 Nadine Kuffner: Diploma show So What!, Munich, 2017; Photo: Carina Shoshtary
8 Nadine Kuffner: A Jeweller’s Anarchy, Pendants, 2017; Tin, string, steel; Photo: Mirei Takeuchi