It was quite the upheaval when Marie-Louise Kristensen settled into her new south German workplace. The then 50-year-old jewellery artist was used to having her own workshop and a longstanding career with exhibitions at home and abroad. And suddenly, she found herself at a small table with seven students surrounding her.
“At first, it did feel like a challenge,” she laughs.
“But also incredibly refreshing.”
Marie-Louise Kristensen had been selected for a six-month fully funded stay at the art academy in Munich; and it was extraordinary. The jewellery line at the academy is “an institution in my field,” she explains. A nexus for those wanting to push the boundaries of what jewellery can be. And an “almost mythical” place where many of her role models were trained.
“So to have the opportunity to apply for the scholarship and experience that atmosphere – it truly captivated me,” says the jewellery artist, whose brooches, pendants, and rings are known as narrative tableaus filled with stories, nuances, and curiosity.
Stay in Munich
A six-month scholarship at the Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich, aimed at providing professional Danish artists with the opportunity to explore and develop a jewellery project using the academy’s facilities, education, and guidance from the Danish professor Karen Pontoppidan, who has been the head of the academy’s jewellery program since 2015.
Marie-Louise Kristensen’s scholarship and stay were initiated and funded by the Danish Arts Foundation (Statens Kunstfond) as well as the Foreign Ministry’s and Culture Ministry’s steering group for Denmark’s international cultural exchange.
She received the scholarship, and on an autumn day in 2021, she settled into her new shared workshop. Here, she would – along with the new students who had just started – attend the first semester at the academy.
“Of course, I wasn’t the youngest; and it was indeed a vulnerable position to suddenly be taught again. But I was too curious to resist, and it didn’t take long before I felt at home,” she says.
The feeling of being seen and understood
With first-year students from Argentina, Portugal, Taiwan, Germany, and teaching from Danish Karen Pontoppidan, who is a professor of jewellery art and head of the jewellery line at the academy, there was “quite an amazing expertise in the room,” says Marie-Louise Kristensen. The students came from all sorts of cultural and jewellery-related backgrounds; many insights and ideas were in abundance, and discussions started at a high intellectual level, she recalls.
“Being in an environment where the discussions start… I mean, where we don’t begin by debating whether jewellery can even be considered art – that was incredibly inspiring. Not having to spend time defining and positioning myself, declaring and emphasizing that my jewellery is artistic work. But that there was already an understanding I could freely speak into and just be seen and understood was liberating. And very developmental for me,” she says, adding:
“It gave me a feeling that it’s indeed right. What I do.”
A lack of artistic freedom for jewellery in Denmark
If you ask Marie-Louise Kristensen what the academy in Munich has that we lack in Denmark, the answer comes immediately:
“Almost everything, I’m tempted to say.”
“Because it has the mandate to create a sanctuary for students and give them time to unfold their artistic potential without necessarily having to target a business or think about target groups. It’s pure artistic stance, where the question instead is, what do you want to communicate – creating an artistic awareness and a foundation to precisely express something about the world we’re in right now, through jewellery. And I don’t know of such a place in Denmark,” she says.
The Danish Institute of Precious Metal – where Marie-Louise Kristensen once studied jewellery art – was closed down in 2016; and it had a hint of what she’s talking about, she believes. But today, she no longer sees an environment in Denmark where one can immerse themselves and delve into the intricacies of jewellery and the stories behind them. And it’s starting to show, she feels. The chain of knowledge has been broken, and new artists who see jewellery as art without questioning aren’t emerging.
“Back home, I often have to go through several layers before we can get there. Maybe that’s why the international scene has always somewhat drawn me,” she says.
Here, she experiences the openness and space for curiosity she often misses, she says, pausing for a moment before continuing:
“When I meet with my Danish colleagues, we perhaps aren’t as curious about each other. We forget to ask: How do you do that? And why do you do it? Maybe because we get wrapped up in some of the structures that can exist in a small community.”
Vitamin boosts in Munich continue for future scholars
Since Marie-Louise Kristensen returned from Munich, she’s naturally reflected on what the stay meant.
Inspired by her half-year at the academy, she created the jewellery series “Bayerische Träume” (Bavarian Dreams), which has been displayed at the ATTA gallery, among other places. At the same time, doors to other collections have opened. But she believes much more will reveal itself over time:
“Some movements have started within me that I don’t quite recognize yet. Which I sense are there. And which I believe I’ll be working with for many years to come.”
But perhaps most importantly, the stay provided renewed energy, she says.
“And a belief that the artistic jewellery has a place in the field. That I’m good and skilled at what I do, and that it’s essential. Everything just goes very slowly sometimes, and there can be a lot of daily grind, ha ha. So that belief means a lot and gives me courage and… Some hope. A desire to continue.”
Perhaps others also need that vitamin boost, thinks Marie-Louise Kristensen. To go out and come back with fresh perspectives. And contribute to the field so it can continue to move forward. That’s why she’s “just so happy” that scholarships for Danish jewellery artists in Munich continue, with jewellery artist Annette Dam setting off this autumn.
“Because that means soon I won’t be the only one who’s been there. And the more of us who share the experience in Munich, the more we’ll be able to strengthen the field and give some of the energy and inspiration back to it. I’m pretty sure of that,” says Marie-Louise Kristensen.
Jewellery artist Marie-Louise Kristensen was educated at the Institute of Precious Metal in 2004 and currently has her own workshop in Copenhagen. From here, she creates sculptural works that are exhibited both domestically and internationally and have been repeatedly selected for jewellery art exhibitions such as SCHMUCK in Munich, Triple Parade in China, and the Biennial for Craft & Design in Denmark. She is represented in collections such as the Danish Arts Foundation and the Design Museum Denmark, and she is currently featured in the group exhibition ‘Connecting the Dot’s’ at the Goldfingers Gallery until 14th October.
From October 2021 to April 2022, she attended the art academy Akademie der Bildenden Künste in Munich on a six-month scholarship. Inspired by this experience, she created, among other pieces, the jewellery series “Bayerische Träume
IF IT FEELS WRONG IT IS WRONG, 2023.
Photo by Dorte Krogh
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