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Noovo Editions


Noovo Editions is an independent editorial project with online and paper editions. First of its kind in Spain from an unique and contemporary perspective on the international panorama,
Noovo seeks not only to be an aesthetic arbiter but also a cultural mediator at the juncture between Fashion, Photography & Jewellery.
A platform to show the highest level of creativity from around the world

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ATTAI CHEN: IN BETWEEN -
THE 2014 ANDY PRIZE FOR CONTEMPORARY ARTS
 
 

The Bird that Wanted to be a Cloud

Otto Künzli

Once upon a time there was a woman who broke her arm. She was a passionate goldsmith who could not abstain from making jewelry, and so she kept on working with her left hand, even though her good hand was the broken right one. Yet Barbara, as the woman was called, had the ability to wrest something good even out of the most difficult moments in life. She decided to rise to the challenge, and to find ways of temporarily coping only with her left hand. Beginnings are often difficult and awkward, yet Barbara wanted to share the joy of her new experiences with her friends and colleagues; and so she enticed them to voluntarily forgo the use of their good hand and participate in a joint experiment, in which right-handed jewelers would work only with their left hand, and viceversa.

One of the left-handed participants in this experiment was Attai Chen. He fastened a sheet of cardboard onto the workbench, took a sharp knife in his right hand, and ut an obtuse angle into the cardboard. The cardboard rose slightly along the cut, forming a sharp edge, or ridge. Chen continued to create a series of closely spaced, almost parallel cuts, and observed the results. He varied the depth, angle, direction, and length of each cut. He created short cuts in a pattern resembling scales, as well as straight, long, radial lines resembling fans. He also made single, disorderly, seemingly random cuts. The originally stiff cardboard grew flexible, and could now be bent, arched, and twisted. The gaping cuts revealed the cardboard’s wounds. In order to emphasize the difference between the outer ”skin“ and the internal cuts, Chen applied color to the cardboard surface and then painted and wrote on it before he slid the steel through the cardboard, thus creating an interplay between interior and exterior. A flat surface was transformed into a three-dimensional body and was reincarnated as undulating, rhythmically structured components cut and shaped in different ways to create an endless variety of compositions. In the course of the work process, Chen discovered a new language of forms, a complex vocabulary with an infinite number of possible combinations. Controlled variations, intentional repetitions, and deliberate extensions were constantly added. When his left hand was back in use, the ”right hand only“ experiment had served its purpose, and was relegated to the past.

The paper strips are all recycled; they are taken from old books or newspapers, treated with glue, cut into irregular flakes, and then bent and stylized. Strung and stuck together, they constitute the raw material for necklaces and brooches. Their compositions are reminiscent of organic deposits, as well as of leaves and flowers. Chen draws inspiration from his direct contact with the material, its feel and emotional charge. In this context, the creative flow is arbitrary, and allows for random occurrences. Chen’s intention is to resuscitate plant life by appealing to the senses and giving visual form to its power and beauty, without imitating or idealizing it. He creates structures that resemble sprawling tree fungus colonies or wilted foliage that appears brittle and petrified. The turbulence of nature is captured in his structures as if in a snapshot. Serving as a reminder of the fleeting nature of life and its cyclical recurrence, Chen’s compositions are melancholic evocations of transiency.

In his recent works, Chen uses found objects made of wood, bone, plaster, paper, or wire — mostly fragments of debris whose origins are unknown. Assembled together, they form small-scale, non- representational sculptures that can still be understood as jewelry, but may just as well be viewed as wearable objects. As pendants, brooches, or rings, they acquire an independent life of their own, which is given expression in organic as well as rudimentary geometric forms. Chen does not alter the character of these materials, and refuses to organize them into hierarchical structures, as if he wanted to let them speak for themselves. He hardly interferes with their random forms; rather, he brings together several disparate parts to create ”purposeless,“ hybrid structures that are at once meaningful and meaningless, functioning as surfaces for the projection of stories waiting to be explored. They are not meant to depict what we see, but rather to make visible something that remains hidden and unknown.

Chen’s ”figures“ demand to be seen and understood from every possible perspective, and reveal the traces of life; they are not beautiful or sublime, but rather bulky, morbidly colored, seemingly impoverished and without pedigree, descendants of Arte Povera. Their fragile construction requires careful handling by those who wear them. It is their delicacy that constitutes their preciousness.
The ”jewels“ created by Attai Chen over the past decade touch upon various aspects of nature. The series ”Redundancy of Matter,“ the graduation project he created at the Bezalel Academy in 2006, casts a sensitive and complex gaze at various natural elements, which he transferred to computer files displayed on a brooch with a digital screen. At the same time, Chen also worked with seemingly natural elements, such as a branched cluster of flowers in the form of a brooch, which he assimilated into an MP player — creating an unexpected encounter for those so immersed in the virtual world that they have lost sight of nature. In the first series he created in Munich, Forgotten Things (2007–2010), Chen traces the forces manifesting themselves in the smallest fragments of branches and twigs. Much like an abused, battered human being who is still a human being, a branch is a branch even without decorative foliage. Some branch fragments are deformed, cut, or seemingly dry, yet the ability to generate growth finds expression even in the smallest bifurcation, as its inherent growth potential triumphs.

When I take a piece of Chen’s jewelry in my hand and touch it, it reminds me of moss, a plant that grows in wet climates. Speaking of his native country, Chen remarks: ”Everything there is different, nature, the climate, the colors. My work has changed, and so has the way I perceive Israel today. What I once considered to be green no longer appears green to me.“ Attai’s homeland is hot and dry, without the seasonal changes found in Europe. The new landscapes he has become acquainted with have introduced him to diverse botanical forms, which have enriched both his perception of nature and his art. After Forgotten Things, Chen was ready to reconsider the classical goldsmithing techniques of soldering and mounting and to develop alternative work methods; he also stopped using precious metals, a decision that led to the creation of the series Compounding Fractions (2012) the year he graduated from the Munich Academy. These pieces of jewelry are mainly made of cardboard and strips of paper that were hardened and glued together.
In the contemporary world, millions of people leave their homelands to temporarily or permanently live elsewhere, and artists live and work while constantly probing their identity. As Paul Gauguin asked in one of his best-known paintings: ”Where do we come from? What are we? Where are we going?” The painful loss experienced after leaving the paradise of childhood, family, and friends becomes a permanent companion, which is just as present as the expectation to create something new.

The goldsmith Otto Künzli was born in Zurich in 1948. He holds no BA, MA, or PhD. He served as a professor at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich )1991—2014(, and is an Honorary Fellow of the Bezalel Academy of Arts and Design in Jerusalem.

What grows underneath a pebble. Brooch 2013. Wood, color, silver, plastic, stainless steel, brass 60X70X40mm. Photographer: Roni Cnaani

Cumulative existence. Brooch 2014. Wood, color, silver, plastic, stainless steel, brass, paper. 120X110X60mm. Photographer: Roni Cnaani

Automaton. Brooch 2014. Wood, color, silver, plastic, stainless steel, brass, iron, paper 110X250X60mm. Photographer: Roni Cnaani

Tangled in unison. Object 2013. Copper, wood, paint, silver enamel, coral, butterfly wing. 110X90X70. Photographer: Roni Cnaani
"A pipe and an AT23”. Brooch 2013. Wood, color, silver, horn, plastic, iron, brass, copper, stainless steel, aluminum. 120X80X30mm. Photographer: Roni Cnaani Flotsam & Jetsam. Brooch 2009. Silver, stainless steel, wood, copper, plastic, horn. 130X65X45mm. Photographer: Roni Cnaani

View. Brooch, 2009. Silver, enamel, wood, stainless steel, oxide. 83x71x57mm

Gravity, Contraption. Toy 2012. Silver, wood. 105X70X45mm. Photographer: Roni Cnaani

“Reduction”. Ring 2014. Wood, color, silver, plastic, paper. Photographer: Roni Cnaani. 100X70X70mm

“What is new in science” (part 2). Ring 2011. Silver, enamel, sibashi , tektite stone. 60X70X20 mm. Photographer: Roni Cnaani

Inheritance. Brooch 2013. Wood, color, silver, plastic, stainless steel, brass, aluminum. 120X80X50mm. Photographer: Roni Cnaani

Brooch 2013. Wood, color, silver, plastic, stainless steel, brass, paper. 120X110X80mm. Photographer: Roni Cnaani
 
More Info: http://www.attaichen.com

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