Bernhard Schobinger – Annelies Štrba
Opening Saturday April 20th, from 5pm
20.04.24 – 30.05.24
Firenze, Via Maggio 19-21r

Bernhard Schobinger, 1984, 1984, pearls, cobalt, silver, lid of a tin can

Saturday, April 20, 2024 marks the inauguration of two shows: the Bernhard Schobinger exhibition at Galleria Antonella Villanova, retracing the artist’s career with a selection of important works from the mid-1970s up to his most recent production and the exhibition of Annelies Štrba’s work at Galleria Alessandro Bagnai, which focuses on a nucleus of pieces created between 2012 and 2024, medium- and large-format pigment printed photographs on canvas, and a series of small photographic prints on canvas with painted interventions.

The two artists are united, both emotionally and intellectually, by shared, interconnected experiences. They met in 1968 and married the following year, and since then have traveled a common but artistically individual path, each implementing their personal creative process in their respective fields of research based on the hybridization of forms, images, materials and techniques. It’s a relationship based on cultural osmosis that generates two different types of narrations – which do come together in a few cases, as in Štrba’s celebrated series of photographic portraits of her daughters Sonja and Linda wearing jewelry created by their father, Schobinger. The project blurred the boundaries between the two artists’ private and professional spheres with great poetic freedom, adroitly bringing each girl’s expressive idiosyncrasies into play.
In the 1970s and ‘80s, both artists were drawn to punk sub-culture, sharing its criticism of conservative bourgeois values, the aspiration to flout boundaries, and freedom of expression and experimentation, attitudes that led them to buck trends, blaze new trails and engender unexpected two- and three-dimensional visions.

The unexpected in Bernhard Schobinger’s work coincides with the unconventional nature of his approach to his art, aimed at breaking the preset rules of jewelry – intended in the strictest sense, as ornament -, and subverting the canons of concepts of beauty, harmony and preciousness. This neo-Dadaist approach to his artistic practice, as one might be tempted to more simplistically label it, actually seems to be driven by a sort of innate fascination with the randomness of certain discoveries artists make, which take on the sacredness of a chance encounter but are perhaps in some way predestined (encounters with objects, scraps, materials, a clue of some sort).
Like an archeologist searching for vestiges of everyday life, Schobinger digs into the universe of more or less anonymous or initially indecipherable objects: parts of utensils, fragments of statuettes, scrap metal, all thing the modern era has produced on a massive scale and disperses with the same mechanical relentlessness. As an art manufacturer, Schobinger intervenes with an almost redemptive gesture to reclaim the “being” of these objects/relics and reanimates them with a new function: he makes the ergonomic and bestows them with a completely new intrinsic, esthetic and emotional value. makes them into “jewels” – in the most archaic sense of the word (from the Latin vulgar iŏcus, joke or jest) – or better, “joyous” reliquaries. The playful/ironic aspect of Schobinger’s work lies not only in some of the iconographic or compositional stratagems he devises for his jewelry, but also in his cunning use of materials: precious stones and metals (including gold, diamonds, pearls and quartzes), sometimes in combination with humble or industrial materials like plastic and aluminum, often intentionally dissimulated or hidden, or employed in such a way that they are not immediately recognizable. If the concept of “anti-gracefulness” is intended to undermine the hierarchy between precious and lowly, attractive and repugnant, the idea of “gute form” aims to redeem the transitoriness of an object, putting it back into circulation with new formal, functional and conceptual dignity. The combination of these two antithetical concepts guides Schobinger as he constructs inventive jewel-amulets that encourage their observer or wearer to decodify not only their symbolic value but also their social value, and to rethink and reinvent the relationship between form and function, and between production and consumption.

Annelies Štrba, Nyma, 2023, pigment printing on canvas, 100 x 150

Annelies Štrba’s work takes us into a different imaginary universe. Building from her domestic family situation – portrayed through photos depicting the everyday activities of her children Sonja, Linda and her nephews – , the artist draws the viewer into an evanescent dream dimension. Employing analogical technical methods, she produces photographs that offer hazy, out-of-focus visions, over- or under-exposed, with hyper-saturated, psychedelic colors, like fragments of dream narrations suspended in an undefined and undefinable time and space. Playing on the intermingling of truth and hallucination, reminiscence and amnesia, subjectivity and objectivity, Štrba’s images tell of the whole breadth of our existing reality, pushing beyond phenomic aspects to infiltrate the interwoven transcendental and spiritual dimensions. Her main themes – such as family intimacy, childhood, the female body, and the landscape – blend with elements from 19th– and 20th-century visual and literary culture, from which she borrows iconographic subjects like John Everett Millais’ celebrated Ophelia, and linguistic references, like the lyrical decorativism of pre-Raphaelite painting or the esotericism of symbolist art. Rarely has the term “snapshot” seemed more appropriate for a photographic works; the figures Annelies Štrba depicts seem to have materialized at the very instant the picture was taken. The shot captures them as they emerge from misty naturalistic backgrounds or the semi-darkness of domestic spaces like phantomatic beings. This sort of magical epiphany is fostered by the empirical type of photographic method the artist adopts: the blind spot. By not aiming her lens directly at the subject, Štrba creates an intentional division between her own subjective gaze and the objective eye of the technical apparatus, giving the latter free reign to independently decide the framing and the quality of the image impressed on the film, as well as the resolution. Printed on canvas and sometimes further saturated with paint interventions, layered on or Printed on canvas and sometimes further saturated with layered paint interventions, or like edited slow-motion frames, the visual imagery of Annelies Štrba’s photographic works has become increasingly abstract and evocative over the years. Eschewing the realism usually intrinsic to video and photographic reproduction, she has developed an impressionistic approach to images in which the act of observing (a landscape, a body, or a shape) coincides with that of capturing real or imagined fleeting fragments of life in an artwork through an immediate, emphatic impression of color and light.
Emanuela Nobile Mino

Via Maggio 19-21/r, 50125 Firenze
Via della Repubblica 39, 52045 Foiano della Chiana (AR)
+ 39.331 2857490 / +39.055 7092981

Text über Bernhard Schobinger von Emanuela Nobile Mino zur Vernissage in der Galerie Antonella Villanova, Florenz (Ausschnitt aus dem ganzen Einführungstext, der auch über Annelies Štrba und über die beiden Kunstschaffenden berichtet).

Am Samstag, den 20. April 2024, werden zwei Ausstellungen eröffnet: die Ausstellung von Bernhard Schobinger in der Galleria Antonella Villanova, die den Werdegang des Künstlers mit einer Auswahl wichtiger Werke von Mitte der 1970er Jahre bis zu seiner jüngsten Produktion nachzeichnet, und die Ausstellung von Annelies Štrba in der Galleria Alessandro Bagnai, die sich auf einen Kern von Werken konzentriert, die zwischen 2012 und 2024 entstanden sind, nämlich mittel- und großformatige Pigmentdrucke auf Leinwand und eine Serie von kleinen Fotodrucken auf Leinwand mit gemalten Interventionen.

Die beiden Künstler sind sowohl emotional als auch intellektuell durch gemeinsame, miteinander verknüpfte Erfahrungen verbunden. Sie lernten sich 1968 kennen und heirateten im darauffolgenden Jahr. Seitdem gehen sie einen gemeinsamen, aber künstlerisch individuellen Weg, wobei jeder von ihnen seinen persönlichen kreativen Prozess in seinem jeweiligen Forschungsgebiet umsetzt, der auf der Hybridisierung von Formen, Bildern, Materialien und Techniken beruht. Es ist eine Beziehung, die auf kultureller Osmose beruht und zwei verschiedene Arten von Erzählungen hervorbringt – die in einigen Fällen zusammenkommen, wie in Štrbas berühmter Serie fotografischer Porträts ihrer Töchter Sonja und Linda, die Schmuck tragen, der von ihrem Vater Schobinger geschaffen wurde. Das Projekt verwischte die Grenzen zwischen der privaten und der beruflichen Sphäre der beiden Kunstschaffenden mit großer poetischer Freiheit und brachte geschickt die ausdrucksstarken Eigenheiten der beiden Mädchen ins Spiel.  Beide Künstler fühlten sich in den 1970er und ‘80er Jahren von der Punk-Subkultur angezogen und teilten mit ihr die Kritik an konservativen bürgerlichen Werten, das Streben, Grenzen zu überschreiten, sowie die Freiheit des Ausdrucks und des Experimentierens – Haltungen, die sie dazu brachten, sich Trends zu widersetzen, neue Wege zu beschreiten und unerwartete zwei- und dreidimensionale Visionen zu entwickeln.

Das Unerwartete im Werk von Bernhard Schobinger deckt sich mit dem unkonventionellen Charakter seines künstlerischen Ansatzes, der darauf abzielt, die vorgegebenen Regeln des Schmucks – der im engeren Sinne als Ornament gedacht ist – zu brechen und den Kanon der Vorstellungen von Schönheit, Harmonie und Kostbarkeit zu unterlaufen. Diese neodadaistische Herangehensweise an seine künstlerische Praxis, wie man sie vereinfachend nennen könnte, scheint tatsächlich von einer Art angeborener Faszination für die Zufälligkeit bestimmter Entdeckungen angetrieben zu werden, die Künstler machen und die die Heiligkeit einer zufälligen Begegnung annehmen, aber vielleicht in gewisser Weise vorherbestimmt sind (Begegnungen mit Gegenständen, Resten, Materialien, irgendeinem Hinweis).
Wie ein Archäologe auf der Suche nach Überresten des Alltags gräbt Schobinger im Universum der mehr oder weniger anonymen oder zunächst unentzifferbaren Gegenstände: Teile von Gebrauchsgegenständen, Fragmente von Statuetten, Schrott, alles, was die Moderne massenhaft produziert hat und mit derselben mechanischen Unerbittlichkeit verstreut.  Als Kunsthersteller (art manufacterer) greift Schobinger mit einer fast erlösenden Geste ein, um das “Wesen” dieser Objekte/Reliquien zurückzuerobern und sie mit einer neuen Funktion zu reanimieren: Er macht sie ergonomisch und verleiht ihnen einen völlig neuen intrinsischen, ästhetischen und emotionalen Wert. Er macht sie zu “Juwelen” – im archaischsten Sinne des Wortes (vom lateinischen iŏcus, Witz oder Scherz) – oder besser, zu “fröhlichen” Reliquienschreinen. Der spielerisch-ironische Aspekt von Schobingers Werk liegt nicht nur in einigen der ikonografischen oder kompositorischen Kunstgriffe, die er sich für seine Schmuckstücke ausdenkt, sondern auch in der raffinierten Verwendung von Materialien: Edelsteine und Metalle (darunter Gold, Diamanten, Perlen und Quarze), manchmal in Kombination mit einfachen oder industriellen Materialien wie Kunststoff und Aluminium, die oft absichtlich verdeckt oder versteckt oder so eingesetzt werden, dass sie nicht sofort erkennbar sind. Während das Konzept der “Anti-Grazie” die Hierarchie zwischen kostbar und niedrig, attraktiv und abstoßend (zit: hierarchy between precious and lowly, attractive and repugnant, ) untergraben soll, zielt die Idee der “guten Form” darauf ab, die Vergänglichkeit eines Objekts zu erlösen und es mit neuer formaler, funktionaler und konzeptioneller Würde wieder in Umlauf zu bringen. Die Kombination dieser beiden gegensätzlichen Konzepte leitet Schobinger bei der Konstruktion erfindungsreicher Schmuckamulette, die ihren Betrachter oder Träger dazu anregen, nicht nur ihren symbolischen Wert, sondern auch ihren sozialen Wert zu entschlüsseln und das Verhältnis zwischen Form und Funktion sowie zwischen Produktion und Konsum neu zu überdenken und zu erfinden.

Review on Art Jewelry Forum




Bernhard Schobinger on Exhibit at Antonella Villanova Galleria

By Ilaria Ruggiero

Bernhard Schobinger — Annelies Štrba
April 20–May 30, 2024
Antonella Villanova Galleria, Florence, Italy

Exhibition view, Bernhard Schobinger—Annelies Štrba, 2024, Antonella Villanova Galleria, Florence, Italy, photo: Antonella Villanova Galleria

From the moment I left Antonella Villanova Gallery, I told myself that I shouldn’t wait too long to put in order, and on paper, my thoughts and the multitude of stimuli I received during my visit and intense chat with Bernhard Schobinger. Together with his wife and life partner, Annelies Štrba, he was in Florence for the opening of their double solo exhibition at the Antonella Villanova and Alessandro Bagnai galleries.

The variety of Schobinger’s spontaneous narratives allowed a fruitful dialogue and a natural connection with his work. It confirmed the intense and layered complexity of a sui generis creator who has maintained rigorous faith, over time, in his purest and most genuine instinct. It has led him to follow his talent and develop an extraordinary language.

Bernhard Schobinger, Tamahagane Ring—Shimane Ken, 2010, Japanese Tamahagane steel, rose-cut diamond, photo: Antonella Villanova Galleria

The exhibition retraces much of his artistic career, which spans the last 30 years of the 20th century to the present day. It has nourished itself on the cultures and subcultures of the period, originating from concretism and then developing in the punk culture of the 70s, in Italian Arte Povera, and in neo-Dadaism.

Bernhard Schobinger, Face Brooch, 1997, metal fitting made in Japan, enamel, cobaltite wire, photo: Antonella Villanova Galleria

Schobinger subverts and converts balances and customs by making rebellion against conventions and aesthetic canons his approach to life. Far from being a dogma, this becomes a spontaneous action in his way of relating with found objects, family memories, and materials. This constant rebellion against ordinariness and habits, mediocrity, against the ineffable passing of time and toward commodification, deeply undermines those places where the certainties and comfort of homologation, of the pre-constituted and the pre-packaged, reside.

Bernhard Schobinger, 1984, 1984, pearls, cobalt, silver, tin can lid, photo: Antonella Villanova Galleria

Making his own natural, intimate, and familiar environment the inexhaustible source of stories and visions, Schobinger composes and recomposes as a primordial and instinctive act of ordering chaos and subverting the traditional concepts of aesthetics, in particular linked to the canonical codification of jewelry and ornament.

Bernhard Schobinger, Keyhole Necklace, 2010, brass, iron, paint, antique keyholes (two brass, one iron), antique metal chain, photo: Antonella Villanova Galleria

The pieces on display offer a compendium of the incredible variety of languages and expedients with which the artist has expressed himself over time. He always plays openly with the irony of compositional contrasts. For example, he combines the warmth of the remembrance of family objects, bearers of memories and affections, with the coldness of recycled materials, often raw and unprocessed metals. Or he alternates preciousness with the ordinariness of the components, expertly balanced in compositions of refined features and technique.

Bernhard Schobinger, Juwelen auf Unterhosengummi (Jewel from Underwear Elastic), 2007, citrine, quartz, urushi, elastic band, photo: Antonella Villanova Galleria

Sometimes he prefers animistic vitality and concentrates on creating the illusion of faces, little eyes, anthropomorphic features, on found objects, as in the case of Face Brooch (1997) or Taddybar/Huhn/Anhanger(2002), or, again, the more recent and courtlier Necklace for Erica Bloom (2018). Works such as these generate a typical suspension of the enigma and the uncanny, of elsewhere.

Bernhard Schobinger, Necklace for Erica Bloom, 2018, gold, silver, porcelain, black diamonds, freshwater pearl, photo: Antonella Villanova Galleria

The polarity through which that perfect tension that attracts and captivates in his works materializes is given by the dialectic between play and danger, between irony and drama, between pleasure and pain. It is in this dynamic relationship that his most authentic stylistic signature finds expression, the originality of a compositional thought that is never predictable and always generative.

Bernhard Schobinger, Untitled, 1977, steel, 9-karat gold, photo: Antonella Villanova Galleria

We find it, for example, in perhaps the oldest work on display in the exhibition (shown directly above), an untitled steel and gold necklace with an abstract and geometric design. It refers to the shape of an animal, in a past life probably a work tool, today a pendant that orients a serrated and sharp profile toward the base of the neck. The same perception comes from the works that present sharp or imperfect profiles, made of metal, ceramic, and often glass. One also sees them through the explicit reference to danger warnings, such as the poison bottles used for glass necklaces and bracelets, with the drawings of a skull, symbol of death.

Bernhard Schobinger, Kruxifiux mit Nageln, 2014, Akoya pearls, amethyst, citrine, rose quartz, jade, patinated silver wire, antique iron nails, brass figure, photo: Antonella Villanova Galleria

In Kruxifiux mit Nageln (2014), the use of nails, in the body of the cross itself, similarly recalls the very idea of crucifixion, opening to the sacral dimension as a further stylistic stratification of its rich symbolic universe. This tragic nature of life is always counterpointed by an element of relief, irony, fun. The skulls, for example, in theSkulls necklace (2016), are crowned by a small sequence of beads that pleasantly decorates their foreheads. In another piece, Hand mit Zweig Goldring (2006/2018), a doll’s arm nostalgically grasps a microphone made of coral and Tahitian pearl.

Bernhard Schobinger, Hand mit Zweig und Goldring, 2006–2018, porcelain, gold, coral, Tahitian pearl, photo: Antonella Villanova Galleria

Schobinger embodies the mythological figure of the demiurge, without whom it is impossible for anything to have a birth. The demiurge is not strictly a generator god like the Christian one, but rather an ordering demigod: he gives the breath of life to a formless and ungenerated matter that pre-exists him. Artificer and father of the universe, the demiurge is, in the Platonic myth, an ordering, imitating, shaping force that vivifies matter, giving it a form, an order.

Bernhard Schobinger, Teddybar/Huhn/Anhanger, 2002, padlock, steel, turquoise, ruby, cloth ribbon, photo: Antonella Villanova Galleria

In Schobinger’s case, we could also say “a demiurge who laughs,” who sneers nihilistically while also making a little fun of humanity, all busy trying to find meaning in life.

Annelies Štrba, Aneu Gelb Schlaf, 2024, pigment print on linen, 59 x 39 ½ x 9 ½ inches (150 x 100 x 24 cm), photo: Antonella Villanova Galleria

The exhibition is enriched by the photographic work of Annelies Štrba, who has shared a human and artistic partnership with Schobinger since the 1970s. The female figure and surrounding nature are the focal point of her visionary and dreamlike work, saturated and imprinted in photographic prints on canvas, which, as Emanuela Nobile Mino excellently points out in Antonella Villanova Galleria’s press release, “merge with themes linked to visual and literary culture developed between the 19th and 20th centuries, from which the artist draws iconographic subjects, such as the famous Ophelia by John Everett Millais, or linguistic references, such as the lyrical decorativism of Pre-Raphaelite painting or the esotericism of the Symbolist current.”

Annelies Štrba, Untitled, 2024, hand painting and pigment print on canvas, photo: Antonella Villanova Galleria

Both artists speak to us of traces and reminiscences of life and death, of transcendence and sacredness that nestles in the body of materials and light.

This is an important exhibition for Antonella Villanova, who has been curating Schobinger’s work for years in Italy and abroad. With courage and decision, she represents that artistic and innovative dimension around the language of ornament without compromise or accommodation, through a pioneering activity at international quality events such as Design Miami or Nomad, in St. Moritz.

Bernhard Schobinger, After Nature—Pilz Ring mit Ring, 2018, rock crystal, silver ring found in Lake Zurich, photo: Antonella Villanova Galleria