- Date of making
- Date of acquisition
- Jewellery making
- Silver, nylon thread, amber
- L380mm x W150mm
- Collection Number
- Hof/Saale, Germany
- Place Trained
- Leeds College of Arts, 1960; Central School of Arts & Crafts, 1961
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Helga Zahn’s (1936-1985) work plays on opposites. Imagery taken from the natural world is expressed as bold, abstract pattern. Traditional materials like gold and silver fascinatingly combine with other natural materials like pebbles and bones, inviting the spectator to repeatedly make new observations.
This piece is evocative of a time when England, particularly London, was being enriched by a new found freedom in the arts. For the Collection, Zahn represents the first of a few significant jewellery makers who, as the 60s unwound, were taking contemporary jewellery beyond sophisticated making skills and technique into a territory of experimentation and expression of their feelings. It is the first time Zahn used plastics in her work.
A solo exhibition of Zahn’s work was mounted by the Crafts Advisory Committee in 1973.
“Transgressive artworks have been around for centuries, rebelling against traditional standards. This is true of jewellery. In Britain during the 50s and 60s a few young jewellery artists started to focus their work on conceptual ideas, with little use of precious materials. Gerda Flöckinger is well known for her early contribution to this ‘movement’. Alan Davie, the painter, cultivated jewellery in rugged sculptural texture, while Helga Zahn took a more refined, minimalist approach.
Born in Germany, Helga later settled in England. From the outset she questioned accepted values of jewellery. Not given to compromise, she made decisive and often defiant statements. Appreciating the warmth of silver, she used the metal with imaginative care, and her work with pebbles and bone is beautifully realised, while showing respect for the earth’s resources.
This refined kinetic necklace attracts onlookers, encouraging them to take pleasure in the artwork – and the wearer of course!”
Ralph Turner, Curator, writer and critic of applied art. Head of Exhibitions, Crafts Council, 1974-1989.
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