What is Ukiyo-e? What do Simone Jewels and Van Gogh have in common?
I first met the work of Simone Jewels when I encountered their beautiful necklace “Royal Twin Pheonix” and double-sided pendant “The Reverso Kingdom.
Later, I learned that “The Reverso Kingdom” was created on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Singaporean national independence as a sign of this country’s way to freedom. There is an opening door on one side of the pendant and it gives you understanding of what might be behind it. There is a beautiful golden robin- bird behind the door - a dream of future independence. On the back, the bird is already swirling to symbolize the freedom acquired by the nation.
However, even without any idea of the jewellery pieces’ background, one could feel that their creator possessed unimaginable inspiration and skills. You know, the picture produced vibrations of the creator. And then I was curious to find out who was behind Simone Jewels
As it turned out, the beautiful Simone Ng is the face and creator of Simone Jewels.
Born in Malaysia, Ng resides in Singapore and descends from a renowned family of jewellers. Like many children of such families, Ms Ng seems to have been born with jewellery in her genes.
A painter since childhood, Ms Ng established Simone Jewels in 2006. With an initial collection of only 20 pieces, the launch collection sold within 30 minutes.
Today, Simone Jewels has been named by Singapore Jewels & Time magazine as one of Singapore’s Top 10 Jewellery Designers. The award is given in recognition of outstanding creative work, originality and contribution to the creation of genuine “Masterpieces of Art”.
Simone Jewels specializes in the creation of unique jewellery pieces, hand-made by expert craftsmen and artisans. Most pieces are significantly transformable – enabling the wearer to wear the jewellery piece in one of several different ways, for example, the two-in-one Reverso necklace. Sotheby’s auctioned it in 2013 for 2.5 times more than the estimated value.
For Simone Jewels, the process of initial conceptualization and design through creation until final completion takes around 18 months. Being bold, risky and in tune with the times, Simone Ng enjoys keeping abreast of technical improvements and the development of new skills in the creation of her jewellery. She also enjoys sourcing and using exotic stones such as moss agate and various geodes along with the traditionally glamorous and high-end stones like diamonds, sapphires and emeralds. This blend of the old and the new, the traditional and the unexpected, helps Simone to create “new vivid” jewellery pieces.
From historical events to the architecture and culture of different countries, Simone Ng takes inspiration from a myriad of sources to create her collections. Previous collections, have been inspired by consecrated to one of the Seven Wonders of the World, “The Hanging Gardens of Babylon”. Equally, the “Jewels of the Nile” collection was inspired by this mighty river while her collection “Parisian Chinois” or “China Town” visits the cultural fusion between Paris and China.
Simone Jewels inspired their new collection from Ukiyo-e, Japanese woodblock print, kind of a gulp of fresh air, known by artists as Art Nouveau (new art). Many artists of the second half of XIX - early XX century in search of inspiration turned regard on the East, especially on Japan. Few know that motivations, techniques and color reproduction in Japanese art were reflected in the works of such artists as Claude Monet, Edouard Manet, Vincent Van Gogh, Paul C?zanne, Klimt Gustav.
The term Ukiyo-e is poly-semantic. Ukiyo-e is a school of Japanese art that was produced from 1603 -1868. From its’ early beginnings and by the end of the XVII century, the term Ukiyo-e referred to the modern world - the world of earthly love and pleasures. As Japanese writer Asai Rei wrote: "To live only for the moment, to
notice the beauty of the moon, snow, flowering plum and maple leaves, to sing songs, enjoy the wine ... reject discouragement ... That is what we call" Ukiyo ". And so, with the final letter "e" in the term "Ukiyo-e", meaning "picture" the term Ukiyo-e (???) literally translates as "Pictures of the Floating World".
Katsushika Hokusai’s woodblock print “The Great Wave of Kanagawa”, a true masterpiece, was also an inspiration for Simone Ng. In this picture, the artist was able to capture the grand moment, the beauty of motion in nature. Simone Ng shows the feeling of power grandeur through creation of a ring with waves splashing on a 23ct Malaya Garnet.
Japan is a mysterious country - an original and unique culture located on the Eastern sunrise. Past and future mix here. Not many are the poets in Europe who can place in a poem of average size the full scale of feelings and images haiku masters put into a small verse.
Therefore, when a European artist of that time lined up a meaningful mise en sc?ne on the canvas, a Japanese artist cut the picture to leave a piece of reality, grasped at a bizarre angle, for the viewers. A woodblock print is able not to become a landscape, but to replace it, referring to what it does not show, as a haiku refers to the unspoken, and Hitchcock refers to the terrible. The Nature is continuous, - says Ukiyo-e with its composition, - always and everywhere. The Man feels like a part of it, and not opposed to it.
Therefore, under the influence of Japanese motives the Impressionists refused to openly represent the "idea" of the picture. The picture talked to a viewer not in clear text, but changed the viewer’s response to the world, "the physiology of vision," as Mandelstam wrote.
As I have already mentioned, Vincent Van Gogh along with other artists of the XIX century "came down" with Japan. A quotation from Vincent’s letter to his brother Theo: "The painting of a Japanese is fast, very fast, like lightning: his nerves are thinner and his perception is easier."
It is known that Vincent Van Gogh copied woodblock prints from the series "One hundred kinds of Edo", studying the structure and compositional techniques of Japanese woodblock prints.
"If mistral had not been such a frequent visitor here, these parts would have been no less beautiful and favorable to art than Japan." Vincent Van Gogh.
It might be an amusing fact that the Japanese themselves drew attention to the beauty and artistic value of the Ukiyo-e only after the works of Japanese artists started to attract the admiration of foreigners, who were buying the masterpieces for their collections. The first exhibition of Ukiyo-e in Japan only took place in 1898, several decades after Ukiyo-e actually conquered Europe.
Today, in the 21st century, Simone Jewels pays tribute to the unmistakable Japanese woodblock prints of Ukiyo-e - through jewellery, as Van Gogh in the XIX century also paid homage to this elegant art form in his paintings and art.
Preaching the philosophy that "art should be a way of life" and following the principles of Ukiyo-e, the new collection of Simone Jewels enables you “to live your feelings” and celebrate this beautiful art form.