When we compare different artists, we ask ourselves what do they have in common? But to work in harmony, like the tenor and alto in an opera, do they actually need to have anything in common.
This is the case with two outstanding artists from different generations, artistic disciplines and backgrounds: contemporary jeweler Nicholas Varney and sculptor Henri Laurens (1885–1954).
Two different stories:
Nicholas Varney started travelling the world as a child and has continued his journeys throughout his educational and professional life. From the schools of New York, Newport and Florida, to discovering the beauty of the Caribbean, the museums and antique stores of London, fishing in Ireland, backpacking on his bicycle across Russia and Europe.
Unlike Nicholas Varney, Henri Laurens was not a bred-in-the-bone traveler, and was in his fifties before he visited even the seashore for the first time.
The contemporary jeweler and educated gemologist, Nicolas Varney, has been drawing since childhood. Shells and bark, coral and other curious natural objects, diamonds and colored gems, rare natural freshwater Mississippi, Colorado clam, abalone and conch pearls of all colors, shapes and sizes, precious beads and gold: today his emotionally charged designs come to life in sophisticated and whimsical jewels. Never building an idea for a future piece around any specific stone, first he creates the design in drawings and then seeks the perfect materials to fulfil it, using nature and juxtapositions as the main source of inspiration and driving force for his singular creations.
Multitalented sculptor Henri Laurens often found additional outlets for creativity: collages, posters, book illustrations. He even participated in the most unusual, multidisciplinary project, working with a group of artists on Sergei Diaghilev’s ballet “Le Train Bleu”: the scenario was written by Jean Cocteau, Laurens created the set, Darius Milhaud wrote the music, Coco Chanel designed the costumes, and Pablo Picasso supplied a painting for the curtain.
Laurens’ feminine and moody sculpture “Seated Woman”, which I have paired with Nicholas Varney’s warm-colored earrings in peach garnet, diamond and agate, was created at a time when Laurens had started moving away from Cubism towards more classical shapes, graceful curves and volume. This has been perceived by art historians as a longing for stability after the damage done by World War I, and in opposition to the supposedly effete and overly sophisticated present.
The round shape of Nicholas Varney’s earrings softly merges with the feminine curves of the textured sculpture. The tranquility and undisguised nude womanliness of the crouching clay figure, the circular shapes and curves of her body, come into perfect balance with the delicate garnet and diamond circles, offset by a few bold strokes of agate. A gentle ode to Woman as the focal point of the circle of life.
Two different artists. Two different artistic disciplines. One – universal – beauty.