Helga Zahn

Swinging Memories

July 7 - July 31, 2022

We are very pleased to show you an exhibition of around 30 works by Helga Zahn on the occasion of the ‚Munich Jewellery Week‘. All the jewelry objects and silk-screen prints come from the estate administered by the family, to whom we are deeply indebted.

In the mid-1950s, Helga Zahn set off from Schwarzenbach / Saale to London without any previous artistic training, first she worked as a domestic help and then, with great energy, realised a fantastic career as a jewelry artist. She acquired basic knowledge in design and jewelry art in 1958 with the painter Peter Gee and in a summer course in Oxfordshire. As early as 1959, according to Dr. Petra Hölscher in the authoritative publication on Helga Zahn’s artistic career, she made a piece of jewelry made of cut silver sheet with pebbles. From the very beginning, her works have been characterised by great creative freedom and innovative processing of simple basic materials such as silver, silver sheet, pebbles and gemstones such as agates.

Zahn works with templates made of silver-colored cardboard, which she lays on the metal and then cuts around it. Discs, crescents, rings or other geometrically shaped elements are recombined again and again until the basic rhythm of a planned bracelet or long chain pendant is heterogenous but coherent. From this working method, Helga Zahn also develops the kinetic system jewellery with details in enamel, which is exemplary for her innovative strength and her inspiration from contemporary art movements such as concrete art or Op Art.

As early as 1966, as a participant in the International Crafts Fair in Munich, she was awarded the gold medal of the Bavarian State Prize for a bracelet and a necklace.
Most exhibitions of her work, however, took place in Great Britain and the USA, where she was very well acquainted with important representatives of the blossoming studio jewelry scene.
Helga Zahn met fellow designer Wendy Ramshaw, and for Barabara Cartlidge Electrum Galerie Zahn designed the catalog for the inaugural exhibition she took part in. Photographers like Tessa Grimshaw-Traeger photographed her necklaces with pendants in black-and-white shots.

Helga Zahn’s silkscreens, which she printed in Peter Gee’s New York studio in 1967, are of a captivating colorfulness. In the repeating and overlapping circular forms, which seem to dynamically pile up into cloud-like shapes, formal parallels to the pendants made of overlapping discs and angular forms, which were created at the same time, can be recognised effortlessly. Jewelry and graphics are closely related and complement each other in the exhibition to form a meaningful overall picture of their impressive creative potential and the colorful, pulsating, swinging London of the sixties and seventies.