Through inventive, impeccably fabricated jewelry and vessels, Israeli artist Naama Bergman exploits the idea of change: emergence, growth, decay, and the tension that accrues between cultural heritage, physical matter, and fleeting time. By combining contradictory materials such as steel and rust, iron wire and salt, within classic formats like urns and pods, she questions the essence of creation, potential, and transformation; she provokes a confrontation between preservation and decomposition, while at the same time positing questions about the hegemony, function, and mutability of mediums and forms. Naama Bergman makes protean objects that tell a continuing tale about the very nature of existence.
Although born and raised in Tel Aviv, tradition and nostalgia play major roles in Bergman’s aesthetic, due to her east European roots. She holds a BFA from the Department of Jewelry and Fashion, Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem. Currently living in Munich, Bergman is pursuing graduate studies in jewelry with Karen Pontoppidan at the prestigious Academie der Bildenden Künste, having also attended classes there taught by master jeweler Otto Künzli. Bergman is the recipient of several awards, including a 2015 and 2016 Study Scholarship for Foreign Graduates in the Fields of Fine Art, Film, and Design/Visual Communication and Film from DAAD, a German foundation, which supports emerging artists; a 2008 and 2009 scholarship for metal design from the Israel Cultural Foundation in America; the Eithan Ron Prize, an award for excellence in jewelry design, and Irit Strauss Prize, a scholarship for excellence in history and theory, from Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, Jerusalem. She has been included in exhibitions around Israel and in New York, the Netherlands, Germany, Tokyo, London, and Paris.
Salt and Time
Flowers of crystal enliven sterile metal grids. Slowly and inconspicuously, albeit with a powerful form, the crystals have grown from the transparent salt water – the birthplace of all life. They have blossomed by consuming the hard steel as if absorbing the metal’s own permanence. Counteractively, the metal submits to dissolution. What once gave form returns to the formless. We observe a snapshot amidst the long cycle of the emergence and decay of all material things. Whoever possesses the strength to wear this fragile jewellery does not command things eternally and beyond. They leave things as they are; and so they too are left as they are.
We discover opaque drinking vessels made of cast salt (801°C), which neglect their purpose in two respects: not only would they make any liquid undrinkable, but in due time they would also melt into a bitter drink themselves. Do we see ourselves in this paradoxical object of utility? Have we become so hardened and vulnerable that we can no longer allow any flowing thing into ourselves? Still, we maintain a capacity for holding because we carry within us a cavity that in turn carries us; hence the strange proximity, hence the warmth of this beautiful, unusable device.
The gaze finally falls unsuspectingly upon the rings, which give the wistful appearance of archaeological artefacts. They seem to be ancient, although they are freshly poured from hot, flowing salt. They emanate from the depths of silence and oblivion, their surface utterly mouthless; the fractures on the upper plane, which also refract the light, form the only available opening to the world. This shimmering wound is a reminder that we once had a covenant with eternity.
Salt has always been a sacred element because it lends permanence to things perishable. But it is also the most common of all magical substances. Naama Bergman's works call to eternity, while remaining earthly – in a painfully tangible proximity.