Lucy Sarneel | Private Territory in Public
January 15 – April 9, 2017
CODA MUSEUM, Netherlands

The CODA Museum in the Netherlands presents a mid-career retrospective of the work of Lucy Sarneel with the exhibition Private Territory in Public. The interplay between the private and the public for both the maker and the spectator forms its leitmotiv. Sarneel considers jewellery as the starting point of communication, as a medium that encompasses both the sacred and the profane, as a reflection of traditions and customs, our desires and interpretations, and of the things we consider to be important. Moreover, Private territory in publicbeautifully exhibits Sarneel’s jewellery as autonomous art and miniature-sized sculptures.

Lucy Sarneel’s jewellery can be described as carefully composed collections of various figurative and abstract parts. Vibrant elements, natural materials, synthetics and textile are usually combined with zinc. Sarneel: “Zinc is an important material in my work. I associate its grey colour with the Dutch skies as well as the subconscious. Grey is the light force between black and white, light and dark, life and death.” Moreover, zinc’s many different shades of grey are a great base for colourful elements. “I like to let materials speak, I give them purpose and meaning. The spectator’s imagination is very important; it is the magical ingredient.” The combination of the grey zinc, the varied materials, the expressive colours and the mainly figurative shapes gives Sarneel’s oeuvre its recognisable, unique idiom.

In 1985, Lucy Sarneel (Maastricht, 1961) switched from the traditional training in Maastricht to the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam where Onno Boekhoudt is head of the jewellery department. His approach of the jewel as an autonomous work of art and a teaching method that is aimed at the development of a personal artistic visual language fits in seamlessly with Sarneel’s needs. While many artists still struggle to free themselves from the dogmas of the seventies, Sarneel opts for a mainly figurative visual language. Not as a reaction to developments in previous decades but as a means to communicate.

Although her work has greatly developed over the years, this need to communicate with and through jewellery is a constant factor. Sarneel’s inspiration for a piece of jewellery is usually an experience, with her purpose not being to create a literal representation of that story but to connect with others: “A piece of jewellery is a soulmate. A soulmate communicates without words, and the same goes for my jewellery and the visual language I employ. It is a visual and intuitive language through which I try to communicate in a way that is not necessarily rational. Jewellery has a life of its own and invites reflection and communication while also offering the possibility of being worn. My jewellery is ‘slow art in a fast world’. It requires attention and concentration but connects spectator and wearer through conversation. The interpretation of the content, the material and the form determine the value we attribute to it and how we use it. A piece of jewellery, with its relatively small sphere of influence, always exists in the greater world. As it is displayed and worn, the private is erased yet at the same time accentuated.”

The disappearing of cultures and traditions due to modernisation and globalisation is a constant factor in Sarneel’s jewellery. Her interest in traditional dress arises at the beginning of this century, when she studies the traditional dress of Dutch villages like Marken and Volendam. Sarneel has incorporated parts of the traditional dress in her brooches and necklaces. The patches of textile, worn on the chest, have been passed on from mother to daughter for generations, while it can now be bought online and so even find its way to American patchwork studios.