In 1914 the industrialist Henry Clay Frick had a classicist estate erected in the very heart of New York City - now fortunately turned into a museum. It still contains the, then assembled, magnificent period room. This hall is decorated with authentic wall-paintings made by the eighteenth century master Jean-Honoré Fragonard. There, in 2016 Evert Nijland encountered the theme for his new group of jewellery pieces. In one scene a frivolous, silk clad lady holds a headdress: a garland in which its structural framework is as much a defining feature as all the flowers it carries. Nijland felt that all his ideas fell into place; exactly, thát was how it was going to be!

The garland perfectly represents the paradox of all the depicted Fragonard ladies: the notion of an care-free elegant life, dressed in sumptuously flowing silks, yet with the inescapability of a constraining corset. The women of the Enlightenment were trapped in a caged existence, hindered by a harness of beauty. The two extremes exemplified in the painted garland, symbolize to Nijland the borderline between desire and reality, freedom and limitation, between individual aspiration and public interest; a frontier that will be disputed time and again. It constitutes a theme that has been a part of this artist's work already for a long time. Now the cage was to become a distinct, prominent element in the jewellery pieces Nijland wanted to develop. The ambitions were high, the problems seemed almost insoluble. Many hours of hard, sometimes virtually unfeasible handicraft seemed to be unavoidable. In the end, 3D printing appeared to be the only way out.

On the computer screen the impossible is possible, a draft can be translated into every form, with any kind of detailing; the dimensions can be altered effortlessly - a bracelet is easily adjusted to a particular size. With a 3D-printer it is just a small step to go from a design to the actual object. Sadly the materiality of plastic prints is without any expressiveness, so Nijland decided to tread them simply as a half-product. He worked on them relying on his recent, extensive experience with wax-moulds and the casting of silver. It turned out that the plastic permitted interventions that would have been out of the question when using wax: just the kind of discoveries an artist hopes for during a creative process. Also during the preparations for the metal-casting the plastic offered unexpected possibilities, for instance, it turned out that the poorest printing qualities might eventually produce a surprisingly beautiful surface. Once executed in silver, Nijland could finish each piece by applying his very personal, craft-based visual language: he added a wide-ranging amount of specially designed elements, often produced in glass, but also made of silver, porcelain or textile.

The new bracelets and necklaces he created are a far cry from Fragonard's painted motive: boldly revealing, nevertheless just as tempting and poetical! They unite the qualities of an autonomous, sculptural object with - always a basic rule to this artist - a properly wearable piece of jewellery.

Ward Schrijver
(© Galerie Rob Koudijs)

This collection is financially supported by:
- ExperienceLab CODA
- Fonds Kwadraat