THE SKY IS THE LIMIT
DR. IOANNIS MICHALOUDIS MAKES JEWELRY OUT OF HEAVEN
Interview by Loukia Richards
"Goutte de ciel" - Necklace. Photo: Courtesy of Boucheron
LR: Pythagoras called the universe "cosmos," which means jewel in Greek. As an artist working with both cosmos and jewelry, how do you experience and express this connection in your recent work for Maison Boucheron?
IM: So topical your question! These days I completed an edited book we are preparing with a colleague in Japan under the title (C)osmosisart: in_between_art_science &technology.
We show that there are no disciplines where you create beauty. Visual arts or jewelry or even gardening are parts of the same cosmos. Nevertheless, these are only parts, not the sum. And as parts, they have subtle relations between them; we can say there is osmosis occurring between all these parts of the beautiful cosmos. Regarding my own artwork, I had the chance to bring a space technology nanomaterial into haute jewelry. In my opinion this is a priceless gift I got from Boucheron and their creative director Claire Choisne: to collaborate with them with astonishing outcomes!
""(C)osmosis" - Sculpture. Hainan, China 2021. Photo: Courtesy of Dr. Ioannis Michaloudis
LR: You are a sculptor and inventor. You work with innovative material used in science. Many people think science and art are not compatible. Do you think this is wrong?
IM: What is wrong is that we divide the world into disciplines. This distinction is 'old fashioned', it comes from the industrial era where we needed specialized people. In our day we do not need specializations any more; we need the spirit of Leonardo da Vinci, I think. People consider science to be methodological and art to be mythological. But NASA, where I got this nanomaterial, uses it to catch stardust! Is this methodology, mythology, or a blend between them?
This amalgam of mytho-methodology is what I'm looking for through my work. If science is observing for truth and art is gazing for beauty, then I am contemplating beauty through the lens of science, of nanoscience to be precise. And you know, most probably Beauty and Truth are one and the same.
LR: What creative possibilities does the jewelry as a medium offer a visual artist? What are the compositional or creative or production rules that an artist working with jewelry should not ignore?
IM: Jewelry has all the principles of Design we learned after Bauhaus. Nevertheless, a visual artist who is interested in scales (nano, micro, giga) will find a lot of importance in jewelry because in it you can find all those "scale cosmoses". Observing and working on nanoscale is comparable to hovering in the gigantic outer space. Creating in a very small space changes your perception, your own scale, your size even: you feel like a giga-observer over a piece of jewelry made of a piece of sky! Likewise, when you are staring at the stars you feel so small…On the other hand, in jewelry you are not working alone, you are part of a larger team, so you need to communicate your ideas in a space of dialogue. And where there is dialogue there are many parameters you need to obey too!
LR: LR: What is the concept behind your recent jewelry work for Boucheron? What difficulties - if any - did you encounter to materialize it? What kind of feedback did the jewelry series receive from the connaisseurs and the market?
"Goutte de ciel" - model. Photo: Courtesy of Boucheron
IM: I am very glad Boucheron used the concept of my sky-sculptures, and that together we made sky jewelry to wear. The most difficult part of this project was that everything was unknown; it was original and unique so we had to try and test various solutions of how to fabricate a wearable 99 per cent nothing. Silica aerogel is made of a solid nanofoam of glass, so it is as fragile as glass and as delicate as air because 99 per cent of it is just thin air. Nevertheless, it is a very robust material - and here is the paradox: how you catch stardust with pure nothing!
How you can have on your body a piece of sky without damaging this heaven? Those questions needed 18 months to be answered successfully. Additionally, and because of the pandemic, we had to wait three more months for the package containing the "Goutte de Ciel" to be shipped to Boucheron - my mistake, as I used regular postal services. Regarding feedback I only know that the press reaction was extraordinary. Usually, Boucheron receives amazing media coverage because of its innovation but also classicism. But this time the articles were triumphal on this Science in Art collaboration.
LR: LR: How did your collaboration with Boucheron come about?
IM: In 2008 I had created some Bottled Skies with embedded clouds that are on sale as a gift on the internet by an American company specializing in aerogels. Two years ago, I received an online order for a "large embedded cloud of Bottled Sky" to be shipped to "Claire Choisne, Boucheron, 20 rue de la Paix, 75001 Paris."
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