The Greek word Cosmos refers to a system of form correlations and structures based on nature. Cosmos is the very origin of the word “kosmima”, which is the Greek word for jewelry.
Since I first set my eyes on the Mycenaean kterismata (grave goods) in the National Archaeological Museum I have been intrigued into creating pieces of jewelry. The natural shapes, their colours and textures as well as the way the ancient civilizations of the Aegean embodied all these in their jewelry influenced and led the way to my quest.
The subject of my quest was an object – sculpture in a dialectic relationship with the human body but also at the same time, aesthetically complete, autonomous and self-existent.
My effort was to create objects aesthetically comparable to the natural ones which underneath their simple form conceal the construction complexity. I followed more the ancient techniques of repoussé and hammering and less the technique of casting. I insisted on vase-shaped forms-molds since they constitute a model of functional geometry and plastic art, as well as symbols of life.
I depicted the harmonic relationships between shapes and colours. I created special textures on the surfaces of the metals, with the use of engraving and oxidation, in an effort to reduce the natural shining hues of the material and saturated colours. I blended and juxtaposed warm yellow-orange, old yellow-green, warm cold ochre, grey-purple and black.
In my recent work, the form gradually decomposes and its narrative value fades away.
My aspiration is the profound knowledge of the Cosmos. My tools are the language of painting and plastic; these “shape” my course in jewelry making.
The original sense of the verb “kosmô” is “to order, to arrange”. The Pythagoreans extended its application to every domain of knowledge: harmony of the universe, health in the human soul and body, sensible way of life in the home, lawful government in the state.
However, if the intellectual circles embraced the view, or rather, the ideal of order and harmony, which guarantees the transparence of the world to the human intellect, the folk religion bowed to the opacity of death—the libations to the gods of the nether world and the purifications betoken the fear of death, the simple people’s unwillingness to abandon life. A good indication for this are the kterismata, that is the funeral objects, often jewelry, placed in the grave or burnt together with the dead, for a person’s jewelry is so intimately related to its owner as to end up becoming a symbol of that person’s identity conceived as including at least those of its experiences which constituted outstanding marks in his or her life.
Dimitis Nikolaidis uses the word “kterismata” and the expression “Gaia jewels” (i.e. earthly jewels): the first because he is inspired by the funerary objects belonging to the so-called “Treasure of Troy”, the early Greek jewelry brought to light by Schliemann’s excavations; the second, because it expresses his attitude towards life.
The early jewelry found in Troy was created about five thousand years ago; the technique used is mainly that of repoussé. Inspired by the austerity of this technique, Dimitris Nikolaidis decides to adopt it as a principle of self-discipline, a principle that restricts the use of the techniques of gluing and casting.
Nikolaidis’ poetic is completed by a second norm, which he draws mainly from the study of the Japanese functional micro-sculpture used for the complements of the kimono: the small holder for carrying objects (sagemono), and the related toggle (netsuke) and fastener (ojime).
It think that Nikolaidis’ attitude towards life can be described by saying that he fixes his eyes on the (at first sight) unimportant small beings, which are continuously generated by the Earth, and return in her arms, after having silently completed their life-cycle. His art brings forth their inestimable value for life on earth and, by extension, the importance of a different environment, which should surround us. His low tone is that of meditation, tenderness and respect towards nature and its beings.
The sensibility which permeates Nikolaidis’ poetic excludes qualities like the dreadful and the horrible. In working the metals he uses the technique of repoussé and restricts as much as possible their combination with minerals, for he believes that the mineral must be subordinated to the metal in order to preserve the formal unity of the work; this contrasts with the use of the metal as mere support by the jeweler who strives to make conspicuous the gem, whether precious or not.
The subtle shades of Nikolaidis’ jewels come from his research into the metal’s nature: yellow-green, yellow-red, and cold and warm ochre.
At a first level the jewels created by Dimitris Nikolaidis represent concrete beings: plants, flowers, fruits, insects and their nests. However, this representation is but a stage on the way to a kind of deeper knowledge of the object’s individuality. By drawing the wasp from nature the artist seeks the perfection of the insect itself; imprinted in the jewel, it must also reveal the intimate beauty of the material.
Inherent in his work one can find superimposed strata of content. Thus, together with the first, referential meaning – “this unique wasp”, “this unique flight of the bee approaching its nest”--, there coexist albeit allusively, not only his sympathy and respect for the beings he puts on stage, but also of expressive contents and indirect references to mythology.
The pomegranate is an example of the latter. It reverberates the myth of Persephone, the child of Demeter by Zeus, who was abducted by her uncle Hades. By eating the fatal pomegranate Persephone gets forever tied to Hades. The result is a close and fruitful relationship between the Gods and humanity.
While the Greek myth dissimulates a justificatory explanation, the graceful Japanese seven Lucky Gods express more directly the fundamental human desires for wealth, happiness, long life, bounty, wisdom, artistic beauty, and faith that the peace of mind is possible. These gods are frequently represented in ojime pieces.
The work of Nikolaidis does not lack expressive content. Some of the jewels he created in different periods, suggest the idea of the caliciform dance of the Cretan youth who had “wasp-wastes” and “rounded hips. That was the Crete that taught the world the refinements of life, it was not the present-day place where
there is nothing that looks like
Greece before Greece.
(Salvatore Quasimodo, “Minotaur in Cnossos”, in Dalla Grecia.)