“Nature is the most perfect creation that exists on Earth”—so says Russian artist-jeweller Ilgiz Fazulzyanov on his design muse. But don’t expect his pieces to be mere replicas of Mother Nature—highly detailed renderings of an iris’s petal, for example, or the veins of a dragonfly’s wing. Instead, Fazulzyanov’s approach is deeply poetic, even philosophical: those irises are rendered white-hot in a fiery sunset, and dragonflies are presented en masse in flight and flutter. “To capture that elusive change that’s always in motion in every living creature,” he continues, “that is the great challenge.”
Interpretations of nature are the hallmarks of work by Fazulzyanov (who designs under the name Ilgiz F.)—and the artist is now the subject of a solo show at the Moscow Kremlin Museums (part of the Kremlin Palace complex). Jewels Inspired by Nature: Ilgiz F. runs until July 31 at the Assumption Belfry and features some 250 pieces from the past 20 years—including six that the Kremlin has acquired for its permanent collection over the years. It’s the museum’s first-ever exhibition dedicated to a contemporary jeweller.
Key to Fazulzyanov’s work is his use of hot enamel, an art form he mastered entirely on his own after studying classical art in Kazan. “I always needed colour in my jewellery,” he recalls. “Gemstones are interesting and have beautiful hues, but I wasn’t satisfied. When I first came upon stone enamels, I lay in wonder; it was like an amazing treasure box with all my dreams.”
That partly explains the oneiric, mystical quality of Fazulzyanov’s jewellery—and the exquisite execution that’s won him international collectors and awards. The Bullfinches (a pendant) and Butterflies (a set of earrings and a ring) , for example, which both feature in the Kremlin retrospective, took home the Champion of the Champions award at the Hong Kong International Jewellery Show in 2011 and 2013, respectively. The Bullfinches piece splendidly captures a trio of birds on an illuminated street lamp—bullfinches rarely migrate and have come to symbolize the Russian winter—in 18-karat white gold with sapphires, diamonds, and enamel.
“When I first came upon stone enamels, I lay in wonder; it was like an amazing treasure box with all my dreams.”
The ethereal Butterflies, meanwhile, takes on a time-honoured motif in jewellery but is unique in its inclusion of a faceted dark pearl that highlights nature in the throes of a solar eclipse. The dark pearl has appeared time and again in Fazulzyanov’s work. Ever the autodidact, Fazulzyanov has been inspired by both Eastern and Western enamelling methods, from ancient Russian and French to Chinese and Japanese, which he often combines in his creations.
And his explorations don’t stop at jewellery. Fazulzyanov has recently made a foray into watchmaking, with the Kremlin show highlighting two of his first pieces, from Swiss manufacturer Bovet. The men’s Rider of the Apocalypse War and women’s White Poppies were both crafted using grand feu enamel, among the most difficult and unforgiving of styles. And though the decorative technique is hardly new to watches, it is an art form that, for Bovet, occupies an important place in the company’s history. Fazulzyanov was the natural choice. Pascal Raffy, who acquired the 194-year-old house of Bovet in 2001, first saw Fazulzyanov’s work in 2013.
“I was immediately struck and fascinated,” Raffy recalls. “He is a pure artisan, sensitive to nature with humility. He perfectly understands what I want for Bovet.” The jeweller also views partnering with Bovet as a meeting of the minds. Fazulzyanov admires Raffy’s can-do approach. “He was so sure of my talent; he gave me carte blanche.”
Global fame was hardly predestined for the jeweller. Honing his craft was the first challenge. “When I look at pieces I created 20 years ago, I can hardly believe I made them. At the time it seemed I wasn’t going to succeed.” Nevertheless, he always believed in his talent. “Working with metal and stones is so inspiring, I never could desire having the slightest doubt.”
Jewels Inspired by Nature: Ilgiz F. runs until July 31, 2016 in the Exhibition Hall of the Assumption Belfry, Moscow Kremlin, Moscow, Russia, 103073, +7 495 697-03-49.