The Belgium born artist. Pol Bury (1922-2005) produced a broad and diverse cross-section of artworks. Although not formally trained as a jeweller, Bury was unafraid to cross the boundary in scale. Creating both monumental sculptures and wearable works of art in limited edition jewellery collections.
Jewellery Maker Profile: Pol Bury
Bury’s jewellery pieces show his ability to successfully adapt his artistic process into a smaller scale. His jewellery is just as powerful, and maintains the same meticulous composition, as his larger scale works, such as L’Octagon, in San Francisco.
Bury began his career as a painter in the Jeune Peintre Belge and COBRA groups. In his early years he was captivated by the French Surrealists. But, after visiting an exhibition of Alexander Calder’s suspended ‘Mobile’ sculptures in 1952, his art took a new form. By 1955 his kinetic sculptures, inspired by Calder’s experiments with fragmented forms strung together and suspended in mid air, were featured in a group show called ‘Le Mouvrement’ at Galerie Denise Rene, Paris. From then on movement remained fundamental to Bury’s art.
A fascination with movement lies at the core of Bury’s work; be it big or small. The metamorphosis of an object caused by light moving on a reflective metal surface is constantly explored by Bury. In L’Octagon, the large steel orbs placed in the centre of the octagonal fountain come to life with the movement of the water and the viewer walking past. This is echoed in Bury’s jewellery, with the movement of the wearer’s body animating the metal. Bury does not use gemstones, but instead focuses on the patterns created in gold. The shadows and highlights of skin become the centre piece in his jewellery, being reproduced in a surreal arrangement upon the surface of the precious metal. In his jewellery, Bury enjoyed the sensuality of innate objects becoming animated by the wearers movement.
In 1971 the New York Post described Bury’s jewellery: “Though it may sound intellectual, the Bury jewellery is actually far more sensual than mathematical in its perpetual motion and changing glitter…”.
Although not formally trained as a jeweller, Bury collaborated with GEM Montebello in Milan, with the support of Galerie Maeght, to create a series of gold jewellery editions in the late 1960s. The results were exhibited in Cartier, New York, 1971 and were a sweeping success. Rarely do art jewellery editions sell out, as they are not usually designed with commercial ‘wearability’ in mind, yet Bury’s pieces were a resounding commercial success. The editions swiftly sold out and continue to hold a valuable collectable status in the art world and jewellery industry alike.
Bury embraced the malleability of gold to create pieces that seem to defy gravity. ‘Boules des deux côtés d’un cylindre’ is one such example. The bracelet was made in 1968 and consists of a constellation of golden balls apparently hovering in asymmetric clusters around a gold band, like soap bubbles around the rim of a cup. The reflectivity of gold is amplified by repetition of the curved edges of the many balls overlapping around the wearers wrist.
In 1971, the New York Post noted that Bury “…thinks the rings, bracelets and medallions should be sold with their own cubes… [so] when they are not being worn they could be set on the cubes like a miniature sculpture. He may be starting more than he thinks…”. Bury’s jewellery certainly can stand alone as miniature works of art.