Born in 1958 in Paderborn Germany, Michael Becker studied at the Fachhochschule Cologne under Professor P. Skubic.
Gold and Structures – Colours and Stones
I am fascinated by structures which form the basis of things and in the hidden networks of these structures. In addition to creating the inner structures of a piece, I am also interested in its sculptural and spatial quality. Through the arrangement of thin gold sheets, environments of open spaces are being formed, whereby the inner and outer aspects are simultaneously visible.
The nature of gold is ambiguous: in one respect, its bright, monochrome yellow colour is distinctly perceptible as a three-dimensional material. On the other hand, gold is dematerialized by radiant light. The interplay of dimension, surface-formation and light, impart gold with a polychromatic appearance, created by a spectrum of light and different intensities of luminosity.
In my work, gold is tangible substance and light.
Over the past few years, I have searched for a technique that would allow me to work with intensely coloured monochrome surfaces.
My goal was to achieve a result that would be comparable to natural stones in both stability and usability. I searched for intensely colourful stones and minerals that are found in nature. In the course of my search, I came across the Afghan lapis lazuli–the stone which, before the invention of synthetic pigments, provided the most marvellous blue for painting.
After examining many boxes of blue stones at Idar Oberstein, I became captivated not only by the colour, but also by the surface, the “stone quality” of these blue rocks. It was at this point that I began to look for deeply colourful raw stones with an interesting, “speaking” surface: a surface which–as a consciously chosen and extracted sample–would serve as a miniature of the great forms of nature and natural phenomena. And, of course, it would also speak of its color.
Since a bright, opaque red does not exist as a mineral, I use a synthetic pigment for this colour. After the treatment, its surface is matte and resembles that of a stone both in the effects of the colour and in stability. If applied in a thick layer, its stone-like character is amplified. A thin layer, in contrast, appears like a painted surface. In my work, I make use of both techniques.
- 1988, 1994 Herbert Hoffmann Award, Internationale Handwerksmesse Munich
- 1996 Danner Award, -Neue Sammlung, Munich
- 1997 1. Prize: Necklaces „In neuer Reihung“, Goldschmiedehaus, Hanau;
- 2002 Bavarian State Award, Internationale Handwerksmesse Munich
- Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum, New York, USA
- Deutsches Klingenmuseum, Solingen, Deutschland
- Gesellschaft für Goldschmiedekunst, Hanau, Deutschland
- Kunstgewerbemuseum, Berlin, Deutschland
- Los Angeles County Museumof Art, Los Angeles, USA
- Mint Museum, Charlotte, North Carolina, USA
- Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Montreal, Kanada
- Musée des Arts Decoratifs, Paris, Frankreich
- Museum für Kunst und Gewerbe, Hamburg, Deutschland
- Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, USA
- Pinakothek der Moderne; Danner Kollektion, München, Deutschland
- Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim, Deutschland
- Victoria and Albert Museum, London, UK
No photograph, however brilliant, could ever have the enchanting effect of the actual presence of Michael Becker’s jewelry. The top-down images show beautifully the rhythm in which the links of a necklace are carefully set and in some instances follow different patterns or have distinct shapes. The photographs reveal how careful Becker is in calculating the space between the individual elements, how he achieves an artistically composed balance triggering a feeling of thrilling suspense in the observer.
A close-up image provides a sense of the fine crafting process of this jewelry and creates a feeling for the rigorously reduced spaces made of gold sheet metal, which, to the attentive observer, reveal their complexity behind a simple appearance. And although a close-up photograph also gives an impression of the light-dark contrasts and almost makes palpable the surface texture of these small, well-proportioned geometrical objects, which are filed with varied intensity always keeping a matte finish, there is one feature the photograph cannot capture. The image, almost reaching three-dimensionality, still lacks that which lends Michael Becker’s jewelry its unique radiance: motion.
Already while working, Becker tests the effects of changing light on his jewelry, for example, when moving between open spaces and closed rooms. Time and again, he subjects his jewelry to different light, changes its position, changes his own position. Yet, all this cannot compare to the objects’ coming to life when worn, such as a lapis lazuli ring at the hand of an energetically gesturing lady painting lines of blue light across a room. Or take a necklace of movable links: every time the person wearing the necklace changes her position only slightly, every time she moves her shoulders, raises her head, turns around, straightens up, stretches, or leans back, the position of the multidimensional necklace links changes as well. Whether asymmetrically arranged or following geometrical and calculable proportional shifts, it is always the dynamic of the relation in size or the distance from link to link, the ratio of the visible space in-between and the vortex into the dark interior that causes the spatial effects of Becker’s jewelry.
Each movement creates the impression of light traces through multiple reflections from the necklace’s interior spaces, producing a unique rhythm that the artist has set into motion. In this fashion, each necklace, bracelet, or brooch has its plasticity through the variation in reflections and, indeed, its own life.
Michael Becker loves architectonic forms, small correlated golden spatial structures with powerful reflections. Occasionally, he will also include colorful, intensely shining stones as beacons or bright signals in his miniature topographies. But this the observer cannot see at first sight: many of these miniature worlds are encoded macro worlds, minute, artfully composed representations of the earth and, in fact, our universe. It is often digital satellite images of coastal lines, city maps, structures of human settlements, gigantic wheat fields or the traces of comets’ movements and their rhythmic forms that inspire the artist, monochrome pictures that reveal the subtle differences in tone and their underlying structures only to the attentive eye. But these aren’t models in the sense that Becker’s jewelry would be direct representations of such formations. Rather, he abstracts from them; he translates in a very personal style the essence of these images as structures seen from afar into his own minimal sculpture dimensions: those of jewelry.
If one wants to sharpen one’s perception and follow this proportion perfectionist in his minimalist adventures, a comparative look at the lapis lazuli settings of Becker’s latest works is as startling as it is enlightening. Wherever the gold is only setting, where its purpose is its mere function, the line of the bezel is below that of the stone. The cut stones appear through the spaces between them as distinct colorful objects with a prominent surface. If, however, the bezel is slightly higher than the top of the stone, the reflective power of the gold makes the blue of the lapis lazuli float as though it were the morning mist over a clear pond’s surface.
Sometimes, when Michael Becker, brooding and hard-pressed by insistent queries, tries to express the objective of his work with ever new words, he gives the impression of an alchemist of aesthetics in search of the absolute formula that would provide a material answer to the contradictions of the world, that would dissolve them within the form of an object: rest and motion, level surface and space, light and darkness, the universe and everyday life, calculation and fantasy. But at the intersection of all these contradictions there are no words, but the radiating reflections of gold and stone.
Cornelie Ueding 2007