The apotropaic eye

• Bracelets like mouths – traps, rings like sensuous lips in search of contact, necklaces with recognizable male attributes, excremental medals, rings with bullets, unravelled worm brooches, demi-parure with entangled tongues!
The visual impact of the works by Swiss artist Sophie Hanagarth initially appears disorientating, it almost makes you feel assaulted. Mise à l'index, Bijou de famille, Traquenard, Médaille merdeuse, French kiss – the titles themselves, rather than refute the contents and associations, actually highlight them. Let us move forward from this perturbation and start to enquire into the process that lies behind this reaction, try to dissect its origin. I would say that the initial disconcerting element is above all linked to the exhibition of the body, not in the way we are used to – its hedonistic, malicious exploitation in the language of advertising – but in its purer carnality and sensuality. The artist creates a play of forces which works directly on the perception and expresses itself in the apparent aggressiveness of the shape and the remarkable tactile sensuality of the physical concreteness of the works. This dichotomy is manifested by the materials themselves: steel, wrought iron, leather, silicone and tin, which aesthetically have a virile tone, are worked in order to develop to the full the pleasure of tactility, sensitivity to softness and the smoothness of the surfaces, focussing more on feminine attention. And here emerges another aspect of her work that disorientates us: the genre. Her work appears more that of a man than of a woman. This impression is above all caused by the power that her work transmits, an energy and strength that is traditionally associated more with the male genre than with the female. The reasons for the initial perturbation are thus revealed as products of conventions, of the fixed nature of the roles and of the rigidity of thought, of the difficulty of being open to something that deviates from the mainstream. Her jewellery draws nourishment from a culture which is not official and codified like popular culture. Excrement as a good-luck charm, the power of gesture, the passionateness and the apotropaic symbols evoke all those traditions that have survived for millennia, the connecting fabric that tells of our belonging to humankind above and beyond religious and cultural differences. If this heritage appears now to be fading in a world that is ever more anonymous and technological, Sophie Hanagarth draws on it with enthusiasm and curiosity, reworking and rethinking it in relation to body ornamentation, to its specific nature and the intimate relationship it establishes with the person who wears it, succeeding in come up with formulae and proposals that are totally contemporary.

Maria Cristina Bergesio

From the exhibition's catalogue: "Preziosa 2013 Un certain regard". Marino Marini Museum, Florence (20 june - 20 july 2013), organised by Le Arti Orafe Jewellery School.