The Language of Forms
Interview taken from "Jewels of culture",
published by "Gli Ori".
PN Giampaolo Babetto, when we first visit your house we are captured by the all-inspiring language of the forms. Furniture, fittings, cutlery, the jewels in your workshop: everything forms a kind of unity.
GB That's very understandable. At the root of everything, there is a language of forms. I choose the objects around me according to the same formal criteria that are valid for my jewels. It's this very thing that conveys the impression of a formal unity.
PN In your house you have made several improvements and changes. Many of the touches carry your signature.
GB Yes, it's true. I have made many changes, however without ever tampering with the original architectonic structures. At base, the house has remained as it was when I bought it. I am really quite comfortable here.
PN Certainly, this house and your workshop are one thing, but the garden and the olive trees are also an integral part of the house...
GB Yes, the olive trees in a certain sense, are a part of my life. For me there is something very lifelike about them, primordial, almost archaic. Olive trees are a passion of mine. Producing olive oil is for me quite simply a great pleasure. Whenever I tour Italy, I like to taste and buy various kinds of oils as, for example, other people would do with wine. Italy, in this sense, is a very rich land.
PN You have spoken about the architecture of your house, its basic structures. You have a deep fondness for architecture in general. To what extent does it represent for you a sort of inspiration?
GB I'm very fond of architecture and it is also one of my main sources of inspiration. Among the architects of the twentieth century I especially admire Mies van der Rohe and Louis Barragan. Among contemporaries I am particularly fond of Norman Foster and Massimiliano Fuksas. It is difficult for me to say where I get my fondness for there architects from.
PN At the beginning of your studies at the "Pietro Selvatico" School of Art in Padua, you also studied architecture, if I am not mistaken.
GB Not only did I study there but I also taught there for fourteen years. Once it was a very interesting school. In the Sixties were Mario Pinton held courses in silverworks. The subjects were enamel and the art of chiselling and embossing.
Pinton was my teacher and he exerted a great influence on me. In those times there were so many very good teachers who taught subjects such as drawing or the plastic arts, for example. In 1969, when Pinton became headmaster of the School, I took over his course, which I continued until 1983.
PN Just then you were appointed chair of Fachhochschule at the Institute of Professional Training in Düsseldorf, succeeding Professor Friedrich Becker. Did he call you there?
||GB I knew Professor Becket. We had already met before many times at different exhibitions. But it wasn't Friedrich Becker, but Professor Hermann Jünger who mentioned my name without my knowledge. For me then it was an enormous surprise and obviously also a great honour. Besides, I enjoyed Düsseldorf very much. I liked teaching there a lot, and I found communicating with the students in a foreign language to be very stimulating. I was very sorry when I had to leave Düsseldorf.
PN I remember that very well. For us it was a little shock. Many of us had set our hopes on you as the successor of professor Becker. Do you still find time for teaching today?
GB Yes, I teach at a school for goldsmiths in Florence which has a mysterious name: Alchimia. I hope this school might achieve even greater renown, not least for its excellent curriculum.
PN There are many galleries in Padua, now as ever among the best goldsmith galleries. Can we say that Padua is still today Italy's main centre for the contemporary art of the jewel?
GB Undoubtedly, Padua has been a centre for the art of the goldsmith for a long time. This legacy is still alive and evident in the fact that even today there are a series of interesting galleries and, above all, because many well-known goldsmiths live here.
PN Let's go back to your training. You continued your studies after the "Pietro Selvatico" School of Art.
GB Yes, I studied for two more years at the Academy of Belles Artes in Venice. I was enrolled in a sculpture course held by Maestro Alberto Viani. In 1968, however, the Academy was occupied by the students and as a result, it was closed for two years. For me then it was a true shock.
In hindsight, I now realize it was not so bad because it was then that I started to work with gold and to create my first jewels. To tell you the truth they were obviously not my first because I'd made my very first jewels during my school years, reworking my mother's old jewels. She hadn't realized that I'd taken them. When I gave one of them back to he, she was shocked and thought I was completely crazy.
PN You have a very understanding mother...
GB No, she wasn't very understanding, she gave me a good scolding, though in reality it wasn't such a serious thing. It was my father who was more understanding. When my mother yelled at my father: "Lorenzo, my brooch with corals and pearls has disappeared again," my father winked at me and said only: "Let him be, he's a kid..."
PN Was there a tradition of arts & crafts in your family?
GB No, but I think we are very good at making things with our hands.
PN By this you mean even cooking? You are a brilliant cook.
GB I'm not a real cook, although I like cooking. It relaxes me to make a nice dinner for friends and bring the day to a light-hearted close with a nice bottle of wine.