Forethought or chance? Often, the dilemma in any creative process is to formulate a response to this kind of choice. Ulla and Martin Kaufmann opt for an admirable compromise between intuition and method, spontaneity and strategy. Indeed, they opt for simplicity and bareness in form, so each decision is essential. There is no room for a false move! Restrictions intensify the experience of the process, sharpen the senses and the concentration ... So precision becomes emotion, and perfection an everyday utopia on a human scale.
The Kaufmanns are masters of their craft. They know that taking decisions is an intellectual process and that time is the most precious matter that impregnates hands and tools. The resulting pieces evoke relationships of weight and counterweight, tension and balance. Between sculpture and functional object, the work of these two silversmiths tests the possibilities of metal, and challenges the eloquence of forms.
For the necklace “Next to nothing”, the metal was worked with exactly the right degree of tension, so that it did not grow loose and elegantly curled around the neck. Trying to trap space in a spiral meant trying to enclose emptiness that escapes; in this necklace the absence was a space for the body, in the same way that absence is a space for a person in Richard Serra’s inhabitable sculptures. As with Serra’s Torqued Ellipses, in the Kaufmanns’ elliptical silver containers, the walls of the recipients are tightly wound around themselves, with only a few millimeters separating them from coming into
contact with one another. Their careful work invites us to move from absence to the skin of the object, from within.
Starting with the “Next to nothing” necklace, the Kaufmanns’ jewelery and vessels explore the tension of metal and the limits of its flexibility in order to establish the form and function of these objects. The freeing of this tension, unleashing its latent movement, is a characteristic of their new series of receptacles in the form of containers.
The forerunners of these pieces are the architecture rings, in which large stones seem almost to overbalance onto the hand. It is a sensation that is merely insinuated, skillfully, playing with the tilted positioning of the stones. There was no actual movement yet, unlike in the containers, where movement has become a key compositional element. The metal chosen is brass, a humble material but one which here acquires a proud magnificence. The walls of the containers can be folded back, and their lids opened to transform their appearance. Only one of them does not have a part that moves,
the one entitled Silo. This was the first in the series, and the architectural evocation in its name suggests the relativity of scale when reflecting on and enjoying the aesthetic experience of space.
The material is brass
The tension that one detected in the spiral strip of metal of “Next to nothing” now becomes an expansive gesture, meeting no resistance, when you push the lids of these containers. Push more than lift, as they don’t have handles. Thus, movement is transmitted directly from the fingertips to the arm, creating a more generous movement, and one which involves us in an unexpected choreography with the object. The smoothness and
precision with which the lids move is due to the hinges, located in just the right place to allow a geometrical combination of sensations, weights and balance. The technical element is not hidden, but instead contributes to the aesthetics of the object.
The moment of impasse, of metamorphosis, attracts our full attention, seconds before everything accelerates and gravity makes itself felt. The containers unfold, the change surprises us, as does the harmony in the movement and the unexpectedness of a lid that does not fold back completely, but stays suspended a few millimeters above the surface, floating.
As if they were magic containers in a conjuring trick, we can guess at Ulla and Martin´s complicit smiles. In their exquisite technical execution, they have not overlooked humor and certain optical challenges that invite our interaction. Sometimes a surface seems to form a perfect right angle, but when we move, it will look much more sloping. In this way we discover the importance the artists accord to perception.
In their open position, the boxes incorporate the space that surrounds them. The air becomes a malleable matter, recalling the work of Donald Judd, who saw his pieces not as sculptures but as “specific objects”, the focus of his main obsession: how do objects occupy and alter space? For Judd, space was something tangible, it could be observed and felt. Paradoxically, the man who was a minimal artist par excellence never liked the term “minimalism”, since he felt it diminished possibilities before he had even started.
One could say that in spite of its purity and simplicity, it is likewise not enough to describe the Kaufmanns’ work as “minimalist”. Their jewelery and objects exist to be reinvented again and again, through contemplating, wearing and interacting with them. Their austere beauty and the serenity of their forms seduce us, but they attract even more when they surprise, because they do not react how we expect them to:
... When a strip of metal has exactly the right degree of tension to roll itself elegantly around the neck.
... When a small amount of absence allows us to trace over the skin of a vessel that winds around itself.
... When a bodily gesture transforms a box and a box transforms the gesture.
The latent movement of objects and emotions.