Jewelry has a centuries-old history. Deciphering the enigmas that flow from the creations of gold and silversmiths is not an easy task. The first thing would be to shed any evaluative prejudices that do not recognize an authentic artistic language in jewelry. In contemporary art, concepts are being broadened so that they can eliminate the tenuous line between a piece of jewelry and a sculpture.
One relevant example in Cuban jewelry making is Jorge Gil (Havana, 1961). For many years, his concept of jewelry has been very much connected to that of sculpture.
From his elaborately and boldly-designed jewelry, elegantly simple and unsurpassable in craftsmanship, the artist has moved to what he calls “salon sculptures.”
In looking over articles and catalogues that refer to Gil's work, we can see how this move to sculpture was inevitable. This jeweler likes the term “sculptor's jewelry.” It was no coincidence that in March 2010 he received approval for the legal importation and sale of his jewelry designs from the Department of the Treasury in Washington (despite the economic blockade), because they are considered to be small-format sculptures.
Gil has created a way of working precious metals that distinguishes him within that very ancient trade. His methods are what make him unique. His pieces, which can be included in minimal art, are above all very contemporary.
In his Havana home on the River Almendares, where he has his workshop, he received a visit from Cubaplus for what became a relaxed, extensive dialogue.
“My history as a sculptor cannot be conceived without my birth as a silversmith. There's the knowledge that it gives you from the standpoint of concept and construct; and then there's the fact that you spend a lot of time working in a small scale, prepared for them to inhabit that space.”
“Pieces that once inhabited the human anatomy can be taken perfectly into space. That is what I advocate, and after slaving away on jewelry for almost 25 years —because I make jewelry— I realized that I was ready to start casting my first bronzes, and to make reinterpretations of jewelry that I thought could somehow inhabit a place with a greater breadth.”
“I have two transitions: one is from jewelry to sculpture, from the jewelry that I resized and made into a salon sculpture; and the other is where that salon sculpture that keeps growing and becomes an object with another dimension.”
“Trained sculptors have a conception than is different from mine as a silversmith, and that is the issue of finish. For them, perhaps, it is not the most important thing; they go for the large volume, a certain texture, but with imperfections. That is not my case. I want the sculpture I make to be as well-made as a piece of jewelry.”
“I have training in mechanical drawing. I draw a lot, not with a computer, but in the old-fashioned way. I it has a high point of fusion; and it is light. One of its attributes is that it is great for dyeing. I do it with fire and an electrolytic process.”
“I am an artisan; I defend that. For me, painters are also artisans. I think an artisan is somebody who can materialize what he or she thinks in wood or on a canvas. I am an artisan touched by some deity who one day gave me the possibility of learning about titanium. I don't think my work has any philosophical foundations. I go for beauty, for essence. I will always defend my work based on beauty and scale.”
“I've done two series. One form has given me the possibility of transforming it into others, and working go to nature; that's where everything is. What I extract from nature in terms of rhythm, form, character, I then influence by using the architecture that can inhabit one of the pieces of jewelry that I make.”
“First I have to figure out how to resolve a form to be able to know whether or not I can do it, although what one imagines is almost always real.”
“I try, with a minimum of resources, to get the message across to you like a telegram. I don't like for my work to have a lot of elements; the fewer the better, which is very difficult.”
“It has been a leading metal in my work for the last 15 years, and has many attributes. It is bio-compatible; with an original idea, adding hundreds of details without losing the essence of the original; every ring or necklace comes out different. The first was the series Arcos (which appears in a catalog in which the Lark Jewelry gallery in the United States featured what they called the best 500 rings in the world), and the second was Las lunas de Eva, a series of necklaces (one of them, Lotus, made the cover of the Dutch magazine Edelmetaal).”
“Value almost always lies in special stones, or in gold, and I'm not into that. I go for pure design, beauty, something that can become a personal attribute of yours based on aesthetics, not value.”
Jorge Gil has exhibited his work in galleries in Havana, París, Barcelona, Rome, Pennsylvania and Amsterdam, and has points of sale in the galleries of the Fondo Cubano de Bienes Culturales at the Hotel Meliá las Américas, Varadero; Forma, on Calle Obispo, and the Víctor Manuel, in the Plaza de la Catedral, both of which are in Habana Vieja. Also, in the CODA Museum, Apeldoorn; Galerie Zee, Zand, Zilver, La Haya and Galerie Montulet, Gouda (Netherlands). At Cuba's annual International Arts and Crafts Fair (FIART), he was won prizes for Best Individual Piece (1993) and for Jewelry Collection (2009).
A well-balanced combination of practical artisan's knowledge and today's designs for auteur jewelry making and sculpture make Jorge Gil a very contemporary artist.
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