For the first time ever, a selection of the best of Czech contemporary jewellery comes to London. The exhibition commissioned by Czech Centre London will be hosted at the East London Gallery S O. As part of London Craft Week, ‘Purity and Decadence: Contemporary Czech Jewellery’ is set to celebrate and inspire the design industry throughout May.
While Czech glass and costume jewellery already have a strong reputation in the United Kingdom, Purity and Decadence is the first group exhibition showcasing several generations of contemporary Czech jewellery and metalwork to the British audience. Each of the presented artists are renowned in their field and unique in their style and approach to object. The award-winning collections by Eva Eisler, Nastassia Aleinikava, Zorya, Markéta Kratochvílová and students of the K.O.V. studio at the Academy of Arts, Architecture and Design in Prague, are connected by their original vision pushing the boundaries of what we understand by art, jewellery and exceptional craftsmanship.
All these superb Czech designers will be presenting old and new collections alongside their award-winning signature pieces. “Time” is an impetus for them. It drives to create something more meaningful than oneself, defines purpose and motivates to understand and be understood. “Time”, on the other hand, gives also an insight into what makes the artists view unique.
“Time is a creator if it is given a chance, a never-ending transformation of energy into various forms,” say the two designers behind Zorya, Daniel Pošta and Zdeněk Vacek. In their VIRUS collection, which has won them the Jewellery Designer of the Year at the CZECH GRAND DESIGN 2011 as well as the highest national design title Grand Designer of the Year 2011, crystals replicate like viruses. “We started with some marine rope and salt, combined with the effects of time, which can change objects beyond recognition. Instead of decomposition, though, in this case there is an almost magical transformation, and ordinary things change to the point they cannot be recognized.” This process led to the formation of necklaces hovering on the boundary between a jewel and an artistic concept, transforming fugacious materials into unique impressive objects.
Work with time is also at the centre stage of K.O.V. studio, led by Eva Eisler, herself one of the most internationally recognized Czech jewellery designers. Her students experiment with different materials and are encouraged to express their vision through thoughtful albeit often very playful concepts. “Each detail plays a highly significant role. Whatever we do, it should have a deeper meaning, even if the result displays a kind of seemingly undefined purpose. It helps us to expand our minds and to understand each other. A piece of jewellery can become a visible symbol, containing a strong message,” explains Eisler, whose steel brooches and bracelets are worn by the likes of Zaha Hadid or Norman Foster.
Winner of the 2017 Czech Grand Designer Award, Nastassia Aleinikava, who graduated from K.O.V. studio in 2013, speeds up time and looks into a colourful, electric and cosmopolitan future through her collection of eyewear. “Glasses as a jewel and a jewel as a story – however, not everybody has the courage to write his or her story” so Nastassia helps people write it through her glasses with their bold shapes accentuating and reawakening their owners’ character. Nastassia, however, proves to be a true time-traveller, with her latest collection of silver and gold objects inspired by the medieval Voynich manuscript.
Winner of two Czech Grand Design Awards – Jewellery Designer of the Year 2016 and Talent of the Year 2014, Markéta Kratochvílová, works with a wide range of materials from silver, to silk inspired by a wide range of references, including the history of fashion, an anthropological interest in jewellery and manner of dress of indigenous groups in India, Africa, and Asia. “In my designs, I strive to support the relationship of a female body with jewellery and explore its capacity to express itself and have impact on its wearer and her life.” says Markéta whose pieces — half jewellery, half clothing, always laden with layers of meaning— have already caught the eye of the UK audience in 2016 when her work was part of the International Fashion Showcase. She was since commissioned as a costume designer for Cryptic: “We wanted to collaborate with Markéta as her work is daring, yet sensual and liberating. I adore her attention to detail and the fact her garments create an emotion within us, even more so when we examine her extraordinary craft. They intrigue us whilst also pulling us into another world. She is a great Czech talent to work with – she will leave a mark for sure,” points out Cathie Boyd, Artistic Director and Founder of Cryptic and Sonica.
An official part of the London Craft Week, the exhibition displayed in the East-London Gallery S O continues throughout May, and will offer accompanying workshops and lectures introducing both the contemporary Czech design scene, but also the magnificent tradition of Czech costume jewellery. The exhibition is organized by the Czech Centre London as part of the Czech Republic 100 anniversary.