Interdisciplinary. Community. Advocacy. Humor.
From March 16 to April 15, 2018, it is with great excitement that Galerie Noel Guyomarc’h brings together two young contemporary enamelists of the daring contemporary jewellery avant-garde, French-Canadian Aurelie Guillaume and American Zachery Lechtenberg.
The title of the exhibition plays with TOC, a French word which, associated to jewellery, means fake, cheap or junk, and TWEE, something that is sweet, almost to the point of being sickening so. As a matter of fact, Guillaume and Lechtenberg took the idea of kitsch as a starting point for their researches, and will present in the exhibition their respective reflection and personal interpretation of the theme.
An accomplished illustrator, Zachery Lechtenberg, 29 years old, covers his jewellery with a personal lexicon influenced by contemporary cartoon imagery, particularly the work of Matt Groening, best known for the comic strip Life in Hell and animated series, The Simpsons. Goofy but lovable, Lechtenberg’s characters bear strong symbolical values: the Rat represents a being obsessed with its passions ; The ONI/Demon the balance between positive and negative energy.
Having considered to become a children books illustrator, Aurélie Guillaume, 27, found herself fascinated with the glossy surface of cloisonné enamel works. Influenced by cartoonists such as French-Canadian Simon Bossé, French Gilles Roussel and Loic Secheresse, she went on creating her own personal universe, characters and dreamlike atmospheres, bringing to life a cartoon-like humorous world in which she injects her personal experiences and imagination. Her pieces can take up to 15-20 different layers of enamel, each fired at 1500°C.
Both Guillaume and Lechtenberg share the same vivid interest in pop and street art, comics, icons and counterculture, as well as the same agenda: imbuing traditional enamel work with fresh iconography.
This challenging and incredibly time-consuming technique, whose history calls for a long tradition, consists in applying pigmented enamel powder within previously-made compartments. In Guillaume’s case, those latter are built with silver wire (cloisonné technique). Lechtenberg prefers champleve, carving directly into his material before applying the paste. The pieces are then left to dry before being fired, sometimes several times, in a kiln, before polishing. A single mistake, and days of work could be lost.
As the main topic of the exhibition, Kitsch is at the core of Guillaume and Lechtenberg’s latest researches. Traditionally related to cheap mass industrial production, associated with « too much » or « bad taste », kitsch colliding with enamel jewelry art paves the way for multiple questionings.
For Zach, the idea came from a comment from another jeweller who asked him how he felt about his work being considered kitsch. Inventorying what he knew or felt was kitsch and collecting odds and ends for future works, he took the insult to make it a challenge and a meaningful creative purpose.
To Aurelie, kitch was a welcome pretext to have fun and to express her boundless creativity. As kitsch has no need for self justification, it opens up a world of limitless candid-colored iconography (cherubs, angels, cats, ribbons, flowers…) to express sentimental and emotional themes (love, nostalgia, heart ache…) she felt keen on indulging in.