The Contemporary Art Society is pleased to announce the recent acquisition of Amber Girl (2015) by Bettina Speckner (b.1962 ). For Amber Girl, Speckner has combined strong graphic forms – a pierced human profile and the oval of a traditional brooch – with photographic imagery and has applied three-dimensional natural objects to produce the accompanying jewellery.
Much of her work incorporates small Victorian photographic portraits. Typically, she uses unique and cheap tintype photographs taken in the US in the 1860s and 1870s – arguably the forerunners of the photo-booth strip, the Polaroid or the ‘selfie’. The subjects are anonymous and appeal to Speckner as graphic images rather than for any nostalgic value. She also uses images of animals and landscape, and photographs that she has taken herself. There is an emphasis on flatness and her work is suffused with an air of melancholy.
Speckner’s jewellery is made with skill and mastery of traditional techniques, and with attention to the detail, both on the front and the back of pieces. She uses pearls, coral, diamonds and coloured stones. She challenges our perception with her photographic imagery and combination of materials – it makes her work highly contemporary and thought provoking, deliberately open to different interpretations.
Speckner initially studied painting at the Academy of Fine Arts in Munich with Horst Sauerbruch, and afterwards studied Jewellery with Hermann Jünger and Otto Künzli. In 1985, she was a guest student with the Fluxus artist Daniel Spoerri, with whom she had an exhibition at Schmuckmuseum Pforzheim in 2014. She has run her own jewellery workshop since 1992 and has recently shown work at the Royal Academy of Art, London (2015) and Art Geneva (2016).
Nottingham Castle Museum & Art Gallery has had a strong interest in Speckner’s work for many years. Her Amber Girl (2015) brooch makes connections with traditional pendants, brooches and rings in the Gallery’s jewellery collection, painted with portraits on enamel and set with gemstones. The work also links to their collections of portrait miniatures and fine-art photography.