2017 Susan Beech Mid-Career Artist Grant Finalist | In English / 日本語版

Karin Seufert, Untitled

Karin Seufert is a German artist who received her training in the Netherlands and currently lives in Berlin. Her work has been featured in numerous exhibitions worldwide and has also included curatorial projects and lectures around the globe. She has made innovative use of PVC in her work for a number of years. In this interview, she discusses the conceptual basis for a new twist in its application, for which she was selected as a finalist for the Susan Beech Mid-Career Artist Grant.

Katja Toporski: First of all, congratulations on being a finalist for the Susan Beech Mid-Career Artist Grant! You wrote such an interesting proposal—well-deserving of this recognition!

Let me begin by asking you a little about your background. You’re originally from Germany. Please tell us how you arrived at jewelry as a field, and which path you took for your training.

Karin Seufert: Thank you so much! I’m very glad you’re my interviewer, not only because I like the interview you did with Cristina Filipe but also because, since we share German as our first language, you’ll understand my language/mistakes and perhaps my thoughts.

I started my training in the Netherlands in 1985 at a school in Schoonhoven called MTS Vakschool, where I got my education in gold- and silversmithing. It was quite traditional, and during my practical year in Amsterdam I could feel that working like that would not be satisfying for the rest of my life. I applied to Rietveld Academie, not really knowing what lay ahead of me, and studied with Professor Ruudt Peters for the next five years.  

It was an important time, and my best contacts are from this period. I discovered a completely new world of jewelry, as would happen for a lot of people when they first come in contact with contemporary jewelry. All happened in that time. I learned to broaden my view of jewelry, to reflect on my work and to develop it.

Karin Seufert, Untitled

How did your career evolve after you completed your education as a jeweler?

Karin Seufert: Three years after graduating from Rietveld Academie, I moved back to Germany, to Berlin, where I still live. I decided to find breadwinning work to perform alongside my own jewelry in order to be independent with what I’m doing.

The first year I worked as a restorer on the big sculpture of Frederick the Great, which is now relocated in Unter den Linden. After that I started to work for Niessing (a German jewelry manufacturer) in their first store in Berlin.

Needless to mention that most of my time is reserved for my own work.

In Amsterdam I had a studio together with a friend; here in Berlin, I decided to work at home. A large part of my time goes into developing and working on my jewelry and finally exhibiting the results. Aside from that, I’ve curated an exhibition together with a colleague, which included the realization of the accompanying catalog, acquiring funding, installing the exhibition in different galleries all over the world, and lecturing about it. FWQNWS (First We Quake Now We Shake) was the title of this exhibition. At the moment I curate, together with two colleagues, an exhibition of our group, KGB (København, Göteborg, Berlin). I gave several workshops in different countries, I was teaching, worked as a tutor and examiner, and had a couple of trainees here in my studio. Above all I like to travel, especially in combination with my work, e.g., to give lectures or to exhibit my work. More recently, writing about jewelry started to get my interest.

Karin Seufert, Untitled

For your project you propose to conduct an investigation into emptiness and the form of the void, using the spaces created by the architecture of Zaha Hadid as a starting point. You write about obtaining a “core” void form from your personal experience of this architecture. Please tell us more about the process you want to employ in order to obtain those void forms.

Karin Seufert: My idea was to visit several of her buildings to get my own impression of being inside of them. The outside tempts you, opens your fantasy, while the inside gives an experience to your whole body, like the way that when you enter a cave, a sense of fear as well as protection can surround you. I wanted to see what happened when I’m inside these buildings. Do they exceed the expectation the outside offers?

Now for the moment I have to limit my experience by looking at books about her architecture, mainly showing the buildings from the outside. I chose the architecture of Zaha Hadid because there’s something unexpected in it. The buildings are curvaceous like grown creatures/sculptures, surprisingly fitting with their neighborhood while being something else completely. I use part of these shapes and rebuild them in paper. Not exactly, but based on what I expect to see. More and more models develop like that; I have to make a lot of different samples before I decide about the right proportion and an interesting shape. It starts to become a paper city here in my studio!

The next step is to reproduce the paper sample in the core material, upon which I can fix the final PVC dots. This is a solid material that I have to carve, rasp, and grind to achieve a shape similar to the paper one.

Karin Seufert, Untitled

You describe an intriguing concept of an original form that gives form to something else, like a master copy, which gets destroyed as part of the process. Is this an approach you have also taken in your previous work?

Karin Seufert: The practical part of how to do this I discovered earlier. It was when I considered the massive structure inside the jewels as not suitable anymore and discovered how to get a stable hollow shape. It sounds like a paradox, but I started the development of my stone series from this discovery: I shaped a stone in the core material, covered it with PVC dots, and because of the little opening it became necessary to destroy the original shape to finally arrive at the stone made as a light shell consisting only of dots.

In this new work, the construction of the core is involved consciously in my process. The shape is designed in paper first. Angles and sharp edges are part of the new shapes, as is the emptiness inside which achieves a new importance. It forces me to work more precisely, and while considering how it will look in the end, I have to try to keep this new angularity in the shapes. The core doesn’t always have to be destroyed, depending on the opening, but it’s destroyed anyway during the process because of all the needles penetrating it. The inside and the outside are of the same importance and depend on each other.

Karin Seufert, Untitled

What do you see as the relationship between architecture and jewelry? Clearly both are expressions of three-dimensional form with specific functional constraints. How does our experience of large spaces translate into our perception of jewelry?

Karin Seufert: Both architecture and jewelry are inevitable, but in different ways. The function of architecture is to give us shelter against the weather, to comfort us, to let us feel protected and safe, to relax us, to let us come together, etc.

Jewelry includes the same function, but on a different scale. It’s a kind of shelter as well, not against rain and snow and sun, but for yourself or for the reason of beautifying yourself, to tell something about yourself, to underline your personality, to show your membership, your situation and relation toward others. It’s like taking a part of your home with you, and since we aren’t snails, we can’t take our house with us; instead we have our jewelry to reflect what’s important to us.

Karin Seufert, Sphinx

In your proposal, you describe your interest in the relationship of the outside to the inside of a building. Do you think that relationship is similar in a piece of jewelry, or are there differences you’d like to emphasize?

Karin Seufert: The difference is included in the perception. The possibility of entering a building lets you experience it wider. My expectation by seeing the outside and then entering a building mostly differs. When entering a building you are surrounded completely, all your senses are involved. The sound and the reflection of it, the scale and your size in proportion to it, the smell, the dampness or dryness of the air, the light entering and changing, etc. All your senses are active, you’re encircled, included, you’re inside.

The distance and/or the inclusion of your body make the difference.

In a jewel you see the outside and, with some exceptions such as with a locket, when the inside is the important part, there isn’t really a question about an inside. Of course there are exceptions to this, but still, your perception remains limited, you’re outside.

Within my series of voids, I’ll use inside and outside in parallel. One of my ideas is that the removed core makes space for the void. The appearing emptiness is the void, and the shell encloses this void. Other thoughts are to show the shape of emptiness as a volume or only the lines marking that space, or focus on the atmosphere of a space, etc.

Karin Seufert, Untitled

You mention as your inspiration the manipulated interior spaces by Gregor Schneider in his Haus u r project, and the concrete castings of interior spaces by Rachel Whiteread. Do you commonly cross over into the fine art world, and where do you see differences and/or similarities with the contemporary art jewelry world?

Karin Seufert: I was fascinated by the concrete castings by Rachel Whiteread, how she managed to make the invisible visible and solid. The way she shows the absence. I love this idea; it’s a wonderful thought concerning my voids, to focus on the void itself as a shape, a massive object.

An atmosphere of constriction and anxiety through the manipulated perception of the surrounding is inherent in Haus u r, by Gregor Schneider. The characteristic atmosphere of a space could be another approach, e.g., as in a reflection of that experience.

I’ve seen another example of inside/outside in an exhibition in Berlin in a work by Anish Kapoor titled Memory. I could see inside the object from different angles but it was impossible to imagine how the shape of the outside could be. It’s an opposite approach to get a grip of a shape while you aren’t able to view it in its entirety.

There are a lot of examples from the art world that inspire me and there are also examples from the contemporary art jewelry field (I’ll describe several of them later) that add and give an input to my work. It’s one world. The question is, how intense and convincing the results are.

Karin Seufert, Untitled

The search for the void has been ongoing in contemporary art for a number of decades. Please describe the development of your own interest in this.

Karin Seufert: My interest in voids started with several experiences. At Documenta 9, I had to wait for hours in the burning sun until I could finally enter the little white concrete building. A guard was standing in front of a black circle placed like a carpet on the ground and I was disappointed and confused until, slowly, while getting used to the little light inside the room, I started to realize the space under that circle. A big hollow round space completely covered with black color/pigments. Descent into Limbo was a work by Anish Kapoor, where you had the feeling of getting roped into the inside.

The other time was during a visit of the Jewish museum in Berlin (by Daniel Libeskind), when it had just opened. I remember very well the spaces, which were clearly marked as “Void.” They emanated an emptiness, which was so endless and so sad, an exceptional experience. It was the moment I started to think about the void, and not that long ago I started to give space to it in my work.

Karin Seufert, Stone-brooches

Following on from the previous question: Do you see that this has been a theme in contemporary jewelry, too, and where does your own work fit into this theme within the jewelry frame?

Karin Seufert: Space and void has been always a theme in jewelry, since the body is the stage and there is a space around it that could include jewelry. The scale varies, as can be seen in the work of Pierre Degen from the beginning of the 80s, where you step into or even carry the work, rather than wear it. The borders are blurred in his work between jewelry, art, and performance.

On a slightly smaller scale is the work Schönheitsgalerien, a series of photographs by Otto Künzli from 1984 in which women wear imitations of gilded historical frames. It’s about posing and portraits, about beauty and about space and void. It refers to art because of the frames, while it shows the relation between body and object in the moment of wearing, the moment the frame-void is filled by a person.

A more recent work, and smaller than the two just described, comprises the color-box brooches by Tore Svensson from 2010. The void space here is inside the box and it’s covered with color. One can consider these brooches as vehicles for transporting diverse feelings through color. Here the void is not entered, like it is with the first two examples, but the body is the screen on which it’s shown.

I can’t frame my work yet since it’s in progress. There are different aspects attracting me; perhaps after a while I’ll see more clearly where I come out.

Exhibition view, Glasshouse

You describe your process of building up shells around a form using PVC. Could you tell us more about how you started developing this process, and in what way it differs from what you’ll do for this project?

Karin Seufert: I got addicted to PVC and the dots many years ago when I was searching for a good material to make a bag for another piece of jewelry. I had to place a hook in this bag, and before I could do that I had to punch out a circle. I got a perfectly round dot, and the first piece I made with PVC was a chain consisting of only dots arranged on a thread.

I still use this connection with the thread, but I’ve added glue as well, and when I put two layers of dots above each other, I can remove the core afterward and get a stable shell. For my Void project I try to find different structures on the outer layer. The second layer is the one I experiment on for the time being. The outcome is partly determined by the material that comes on the market, as constantly changing colors, thicknesses, and surfaces become available. The shells get thinner and I work with the transparency of the PVC and the mixture of colors next to the surface structure. The dots are not only standing or lying, they will also be arranged like fish scales, for example.

Paper models for voids by Karin Seufert

On the back of being a finalist for the mid-career artist grant, what are your plans for the future with this project?

Karin Seufert: Even though I’m not the winner, I’m very happy to get this chance to talk about my project on your platform. Thank you!

I’ve hardly started, I mean I have, but it feels that until now I have only tipped the top of the iceberg and the deeper I dive, the more paths open up, as it is when you start working with something. If you’re asking me what I’ll do … I’ll for sure continue with it.

Next year I’ll have two exhibitions: one at Ellen Reiben’s gallery, Jewelers’werk, in Washington, in June, and the other in November at Gallery Marzee, in Nijmegen. In both places I’ll show the results I have to that point, but since this kind of work is quite time-intensive, I see these exhibitions only as starting points or mid-object points.

Perhaps I’ll manage to acquire funding to travel to some of the buildings by Zaha Hadid and visit them inside. I would love to do this since I’m convinced that it would add something to my perception and finally to my work. Another perspective/wish is to make a book about my work.

Is there anything you have read recently that inspired you? Do you have any recommendations for AJF’s audience?

Karin Seufert: A little while ago I read an article about the Australian artist Fiona Hall. She presented her work at the Venice Biennial 2015 with the title Wrong Way Time. It was a kind of “Wunderkammer” and looked extremely captivating. I felt attracted to the way she works with the material. I could feel similarities to my own way of working, even if our materials are completely opposite and the results are as well. Her objects bear a certain likeness to jewelry, matched with a love for detail.

Thank you!






カチャ・トポロスキー:まずは、スーザン・ビーチ・ミッドキャリア助成金給付コンペのファイナリスト選出、おめでとうございます! 最終選考に残るにふさわしいたいへん興味深い企画でした。


カリン・ソーファー:ありがとうございます! カチャさんにお話を聞いていただけて、とてもうれしいです。クリスティーナ・フェリペへのインタビュー記事もすばらしかったですし、母国語が私と同じドイツ語なので、話し方のくせや間違いをわかってくださるだろうし、私の考えもくみとっていただけるのではないかと思って。

私は、1985年からオランダのスコーンホーフェンにあるMTS Vackschoolという学校で宝飾と金工を学び始めました。伝統を重視する傾向があまりに強く、アムステルダムで1年間の実習訓練を受けた時に、一生この仕事を続けても満足できないだろうと悟りました。それで、将来のことは深く考えずにリートフェルト・アカデミーを受験して、ルット・ペータース教授のもとで5年間学びました。






アムステルダムでは友人とスタジオを共有していましたが、ベルリンでは自宅が作業場も兼ねています。ほとんどの時間を作品の構想や制作に費やし、最後にその成果を展示します。過去には、同業者の仲間と展覧会のキュレーションをしたこともありますよ。その時は、カタログの製作や資金の調達、各国の巡回先のギャラリーでの設営作業、レクチャーもやりました。FWQNWS (First We Quake Now We Shake)という展覧会です。現在は、2人の仲間と一緒に、KGB(コペンハーゲン、ヨーテボリ、ベルリンの頭文字)というグループ展のキュレーションを行っています。複数の国でワークショップを行ったこともありますし、教員や審査官を務めたり、今のスタジオで研修生を何人か育てたりもしました。なかでも、レクチャーや展示などの仕事の予定を旅行に盛り込むのが何より好きです。最近ではジュエリーについて文章を書くことにも興味があります。








建築とジュエリーの関係についてはどうお考えですか? どちらも立体的な造形表現で、機能上の具体的な制約があります。広い空間で体験する感覚をジュエリーの次元に置き換えるにはどうすればいいと思いますか?



企画書によれば、あなたは建物の外観と内部の空間の関係に興味があるとのことでした。ジュエリーにおいても似たような関係が見られると思いますか? それとも両者の差異を強調したいとお考えですか?





あなたが挙げるインスピレーション源には、グレゴール・シュナイダーが「ハウスウーア」プロジェクトで示した操作された内部空間や、レイチェル・ホワイトリードによるコンクリート鋳造の室内空間がありますが、ファインアートの世界を参照することはよくありますか? また、ファインアートの世界とアートジュエリーの世界との相違や類似点は何だと思われますか?








先ほどの質問の続きです。空間や空洞というテーマは、コンテンポラリージュエリー界でも扱われてきたと思われますか? また、ご自身の作品は、ジュエリーという枠組みにおける空間の表現において、どういう位置づけにあると思われますか?





PVCを使ってひとつの形の周囲に殻を構築するという工程のお話がありましたが、どんなことがきっかけでこの方法を思いついたのでしょうか? また今回のプロジェクトではこの方法にどんな変化を加えようとお考えですか?






来年にはふたつの展覧会が控えています。ひとつはエレン・ライベンが経営するワシントンのギャラリー、Jewelers'Werk Galerieを会場に6月に行われるもの。もうひとつは、ナイメーヘンのGallery Marzeeで11月で行われるものです。いずれの展覧会も、その時点での成果を見せるつもりですが、この手の作品はかなりの長期戦になるものなので、出発点や途中経過を公開することになるのではないかと考えています。


最近読んだものでインスピレーションを受けたものはありますか? AJF読者へのおすすめがあれば教えてください。

カリン・ソーファー:少し前にオーストラリア人アーティスト、フィオナ・ホールに関する記事を読みました。彼女は2015年のベネチア・ビエンナーレに「Wrong Way Time(誤って進む時間)」という作品を出品したそうです。この作品は一種の「驚異の部屋」的な空間で、人を引き込む力がありました。また、作者の素材の扱い方にも惹かれました。使う素材も作風も正反対なのに、私の手法に近いものが感じられたので。彼女が作るオブジェにはどこかジュエリー的な雰囲気があって、それがディテールへのこだわりと調和していました。





Katja Toporski

Born in Frankfurt, Germany, Katja Toporski is a jewelry maker, professor, and writer living just outside of Washington, D.C. Her work is informed by philosophical thinking, and juxtaposes archetypal objects and elements to explore the limitations of our understanding of things. It has been shown in numerous exhibitions across the US, as well as internationally, and has been highlighted in a number of print and online publications, most recently in the 2016 edition of Exhibition in Print by Metalsmith magazine. Reading (about everything) and writing (about jewelry) continually provide the topics she investigates in her work.

Announcing the 2018 AJF Artist Award
Beyond the Formal in Jewelry