From April to June, 2020, LA Joaillerie par Mazlo gallery was to host Simple Stories, the first retrospective in France of Slovakian artists Jana Machatova and Peter Machata, in collaboration with the Robert Mazlo Endowment Fund for Art and Contemporary Jewellery, Alice Art Foundation and Arketip association. Impacting the entire planet, Covid-19 epidemic has not only forced us to postpone this event but also to suspend all our programming, which we hope will be able to resume in September.
Against all odds the current circumstances find a surprising echo in the works of our two guests whose exhibition is entitled "Simple Stories". In the midst of uncertainty into which we are now projected, there emerges the almost unanimous conviction that humanity is on the threshold of a turning point, that we are facing one of those pivotal and unprecedented events that might change the course of our common history. Jana Machatova and Peter Machata are among the very few contemporary art jewelers who manage to intertwine with as much accuracy as clear-sightedness the small and the great history.
As children, they were both raised in Czechoslovakia during the "normalization" era and share the same interest for storytelling and the power of words and images on the collective imaginary. Without nostalgia nor pathos, their stories reflect the past, more or less recent, in an attempt to confront the present and consider the future. The past becomes a means to unveil the everlasting turmoils at work in the Human.
Within this duo, Jana Machatova plays the role of archivist. She draws successively from the family memory album to tell the story of the bonds between parents and children in Cold war times, then from Soviet imagery to evoke the large housing estates, the children enlisted in the Pioneer Organization of the Socialist Youth Union, the apology of the regime through iconic kisses or sports celebrations immortalized by propaganda. More recently, she turned to the first illustrated newspapers dedicated to women audience, which were very popular in the 19th century, to explore the permanence of the diktats weighing on women's bodies and the role played by ornament in this silent enslavement of the body.
From her formation years as a student of Anton Cepka in Bratislava, she inherited a solid technical background but contrary to her master's style, hers is radically figurative although characterized by an almost systematic use of the saw, which she handles masterfully.
The underlying photographic and graphic references are either enhanced with gold foil or merely suggested with elegant silhouettes sawed and openworked in the silver plate. Skillfully mixing precious materials, plastic, Plexiglas and paper (photos, illustrations, postcards, newspaper clippings) her works are tinged with a religiosity that borrows its codes from sacred Byzantine imagery. Thanks to her sensitive and sharp eye, Jana Machatova offers these fragments of history a new reading, illuminating them with the sacred dimension of contemporary icons.
While Jana Machatova's work is primarily based on the exploration of the two-dimensional image, Peter Machata approaches jewelry as a sculptor. Over time, the artist has freed himself from the restricted framework of the image to try to push back the limits of form in the miniature space of an object worn by a moving body. To do so, he relies on the repertoire of infinite combinations made possible by the new computer-assisted modelling technologies that he combines with traditional jewellery techniques. Yet his points of interest are timeless. For him, it is as much about questioning the talismanic and religious dimension of jewellery as it is about re-reading the history of art through its archetypes. While early series such as Rekonstructions and Mother and Son are still anchored in the classical format of the brooch as a "wearable image", his latest series Neither Amulet, Nor Talisman, Relics or Digitus Annularis radically turn their backs on abstraction and two-dimensionality. Here realistic representations of body parts - fingers and hands - adorn the neck and chest of the wearer.
Peter Machata thus revives the tradition of relics to question the symbolic dimension of jewellery, the durability of the bonds of marriage in the age of consumerism, but also the history of the relationship between human beings and their tools. Lately, using topographic modelling techniques to approach the relief of the body and more particularly of the hand, he appropriates the body as an ultimate playground, thus showing the correspondences between micro and macro-cosms that govern the universe. Peter Machata shows us the hand as the ultimate relic of our humanity as opposed to an all-mighty and disembodied technology, as the instrument of domination through which we tend to order the world and our environment, as the instrument of our genius as much as of our inevitable fall...