Susan Cummins has been involved in numerous ways in the visual arts world over the last 35 years, from working in a pottery studio, doing street fairs, running a retail shop called the Firework in Mill Valley and developing the Susan Cummins Gallery into a nationally recognized venue for regional art and contemporary art jewelry. Now she spends most of her time working with a private family foundation called Rotasa and as a board member of AJF and California College of the Arts.
Atty Tantivit opened ATTA Gallery in Bangkok a year and a half ago. After acquiring an MA degree in Marine Biology, Atty took one of those detours to jewelry that led her to Europe and eventually to opening her gallery. She says, ‘I wanted to open a gallery in Thailand as I would like to share with other people the kind of jewelry that I fell in love with. If I can fall in love with it, I am sure there will be other people who will as well and I just have to give them opportunity to see more of it. Also I had some artist friends in Thailand who had no platform to showcase their works. Having a gallery opened the door for them as well. We have some well-known artists who made it big abroad but are nobody at home. I think this needs to change.’ So how is she doing? ‘I like to think that the first year was the time that ATTA Gallery learned how to crawl and how to stand up. Now we are walking slowly but steadily. I hope that next year we will be running!’ During the month of May 2012, Atta Gallery is showing the work of Austrian artist Bernhard Stimpfl-Abele. He has a unique way of working as he explains in this interview.
Susan Cummins: What is your background? Where are you from? Where did you attend school? Where do you live now?
Bernhard Stimpfl-Abele: I am a goldsmith and jewelry artist with a master’s degree from the Konstfack University in Stockholm, Sweden. I live between Italy and Sweden and I was born in Austria.
Who taught you about jewelry?
I started to get interested in objects by working at my grandfather’s workshop in Austria as a young child. Later on I made objects and then finally contemporary art jewelry and corpus.
Could you explain the title of your show? What does Organic Metal – The Old, the New and the Ambivalence in Between actually mean?
I define ‘organic metal’ as a new organic growing process, which lets the metal grow over another material without any control. This idea of forming metal in a new, organic way is similar to the technique of forming bread. I try to transfer the inspiration from bread into another material and the inspiration of a simple object into jewelry and corpus. How far can I go? How much can I fail? How will the result resemble my original objects? Do these simple objects even have the potential for jewelry or corpus?
As with evolution, I want the new and alive to emerge from the old and dead. Can the living only emerge through the dead? That is how evolution works. At least I hope my pieces would tell a story about the transition from the original object to the new jewelry or corpus. I think about ‘a new way of forming’ using different techniques of letting the metal grow in an organic way, which was inspired by my old bread work. I investigate all kinds of different techniques and possibilities in and around the galvanic bath. Finding the right balance between too much control and too little very often ends in a lost piece or chaos in the galvanic bath. One of the biggest challenges is looking for that thin line of success. That’s exciting since good and bad comes together within a moment. It takes a very long time to learn how to realize not only the good, but some times the bad results can be the best. I try to create a feeling of magic and surprise. When something exceeds our understanding, it becomes magical.
The name ‘organic metal’ stands for the dependence between the old and the new. From organic objects made out of bread to jewellery and corpus made out of metal.
You are clearly interested in evolution or the chemical process of organic materials. Have you ever studied chemistry?
As a child I studied it in school.
In your statement about the show you say, ‘There is a huge possibility to show new qualities within material investigations of natural bread dough, lemon or potatoes for example but also in modern time to use materials like polystyrene and metal.’ How do you conduct your material investigations?
I let the material experience different elements. I get lost during my investigations, which lead to new discoveries and in the end I am surprised by the outcome.
Because of your interest in organic materials I am going to guess you are a gardener or a cook. Am I right?
My interest in metal comes from my background as a goldsmith. My interest in bread comes from working at a bakery. I was born and raised in an Austrian valley called Freudenthal. So up until I was fifteen years old I spent most of my time with activities in the forest, river and lake. All three of them are responsible for my current interests and behaviors.
What are you reading?
The Best of my Grandmother’s German Cookery.
What artists do you admire?
I am influenced by Manuel Vilhena, Ruudt Peters, Manfred Bischoff, Johanna Dahm, Karen Pontoppidan, Peter Bauhuis and Austrian goldsmith masters Sven Boltenstern and Franz-Joseph Baischer. When looking for solutions, I imagine each of their approaches and I choose the one that fits best for the situation. I mix it together with my own experience which then automatically leads into new solutions and defines my way.