The Portuguese jewellery designer Olga Noronha explores the fusion of anatomy and medicine through her object-jewel. Her creations are an intellectual study, sometimes poetic, about the human body. A few days ago she presented her work at one exhibition which included her latest creation, a neckpiece in gold Portuguese Filigrana. We talked with Olga minutes before the opening. The exhibition "Trans-mutação" runs until March 24 at Arquivo, Oporto, which also presents the Portuguese artists Jorge Ramos and R. Brito.
With a special charm, Olga mix materials from the world of medicine and jewellery to create her conceptual collection Conflict: Rejection/Attraction, a series of objects that interfere with the body, drilled or limiting the movement of your joints. After finishing her BA in jewellery design at Central Saint Martins, Olga decided to continue her investigation in researching her concept of jewellery for the inside of the body at Goldsmiths College, and she's completing her PHD in the same area of investigation.
Your collection “Conflict: Rejection/Attraction” is divided in two stages, “Surgical and Medical Materials” and “Ortho-Prosthetics”, Why do you focus your work on this theme?
Both my parents are orthopedic surgeons and, even though I decided to follow an artistic career, I have always been in touch with medical and surgical matters. About one year ago i started properly observing the surgical gadgets and techniques and wondering about how to connect such distinctive subjects. It was about picking contrasting subjects and joining them in ways that would not be easy to imagine. My ongoing conceptual goal is focused on the analysis of physically and intellectually, and their manipulation, by exploring the merger of a anatomy and medicine with the creation of “objects-jewels” intimately related to the human body. For this, I used actual surgery tools and turned them into jewellery pieces by moving them from a cientific context to an artistic point of view, still keeping and reinterpreting its original function, and creating pieces that can be seen as “new-orthosis”, built in actual prosthetic materials, enhancing body parts by expanding, compressing and emphasizing them.
The idea of name for the collection came from the Psychiatric Theory Conflict: Attraction/Rejection - you first feel attracted and then reject it. In the collection Conflict: Rejection/Attraction - you first feel repulsed by surgical tools, foreign Bodies that penetrate your body, but then I turn then in intricate and delicate art/jewellery pieces that you feel attracted to.
Can you talk about each of these stages?
“Surgical and Medical Materials” that penetrate and perforate skin and subcutaneous cellular tissue, where the object-jewels presented incorporate bone staples, rachianesthesia, syringe and suture needles. Along with the original gadgets, are also presented gold and silver replicas, in order to arise different sensations and doubts on whether these can or not be used for its original function. Despite being shown as jewellery pieces, all these elements, both originals and replicas, can be sterilized and used in a medical context. Reinterpretation on “Ortho-Prosthetics”, presenting devices that either help or restrict locomotion. For this I looked for help of some technicians, in order to obtain information about materials with the characteristics I needed. These pieces where made in collaboration with both CRPG ortho-prosthetics laboratory and the Bio-engeenering department of University of Aveiro – Portugal.
You have just finished your Masters, researching your concept of jewellery for the inside of the body, could you tell us anything about it in advance?
Meanwhile I am going to keep on developing my investigation project, in the MRES in Design at Goldsmiths College, project that will try to join Bio-engineering and surgical science and practice in it, in order to explore the boundaries of the body and its capacity of being “Re-Designed”.One of the most important aims of my work is to join different areas and disciplines in order to defy the boundaries of what design is, in particular the meaning and use of jewellery. It always turns out to be very enriching and the final pieces and concepts very interesting for both sides.
How do you face your fight between the mere adornment/jewell vs. the art piece?
Behind all my art pieces there is an idea. It’s a type of jewellery where the aesthetics is far from being the most important. I wish to contribute for people to understand the jewellery piece as not only a mere adornment. There is poetry and different types of moods behind the design methodology. For this, I want these pieces to be appreciated in a different way from the ones exhibited on jewellery shop windows. with my pieces I try to explore different positions and to somehow try to emphasis or euphemize extensions of the body thus being, the act of wearing any of my pieces, whatever the size or value, is by itself a new way of thinking and showing ourselves. The body becomes as if a “showcase” that, instead of static, combines its movement with the implicit life of the art piece. I wish people not to be apathetic towards my work, whatever the reaction – good or bad, I welcome doubts for they may lead to surprise.
What is next?
Developing my investigation project to a higher stage in the next years of PHD, and keep on collaborating with other designers and photographers.
In a near future, I wish to go though different experiences. I want to keep beeing a design researcher, develop pieces for art galleries, collaborate with fashion designers and fashion editorials, and teach for a while.