Gilded swirling motifs and symbols have been a fertile oasis for style inspiration of late. On the catwalk, L’Wren Scott’s striking autumn/winter 2013 collection drew on the work of Austrian-born symbolist painter Gustav Klimt, and saw the designer adorn her models with exquisite 23ct gold-leaf tattoos in an expression of opulence fit for a queen.
Beyond the runway, the seductive quality of gold leaf and the desire to revive an ancient craft within a modern context has also inspired Malgosia Szemberg, former art director of World of Interiors,who has curated an exhibition (which opened earlier in March) showcasing work by highly acclaimed ethical jeweller Pippa Small and Venetian artist Gennaro Avallone. It’s a collaborative venture she describes as a kunst und wunderkammer – a cabinet of art and marvels.
With gold at the centre, these two artists set out to create exquisite masterpieces that draw on a shared fascination with classical Greek, Roman, Asian and Arabic cultures. Small’s new gold and rock-crystal amulet collection (from £2,000 to about £6,000, example in second picture) is made up of rock-crystal boxes containing a series of nine 24ct gold charms inspired by the Gems of Navratna, which were believed to hold protective powers in Indian culture. Motivated by myth and magic, Small’s work is tender and emotional – engaging both wearer and admirer.
Avallone’s new gold series (from £4,000 to £12,500, example in first picture) is the perfect grand-scale complement to Small’s jewellery. Working with gold leaf, his gilded stucco on recycled paper murals put a contemporary spin on the famous cuori d’oro of 15th-century Venice (cuori in this case having nothing to do with hearts, but being a corruption of cuoio, the Italian word for leather), golden hangings that lined the interior walls of the Doge’s palace and the houses of the nobility.
Both Avallone and Small’s intricate creations are beautifully crafted and quietly mysterious. “I always thought of Pippa’s jewels, fit for Scheherazade, as belonging in a chamber worthy of a One Thousand and One Nights tale,” says Szemberg, adding, “Gennaro’s work marries mysterious opulence with modern edge”. Their collections – his masculine, hers ultra feminine – combine strong ancient and modern qualities, influenced by diverse cultures.
The result is a seductive showcase of art and jewellery that celebrates the power and beauty of pure gold.