"Anybody can master a technique, it is creativity that counts."

However, Goudji's art is entirely directed by a rediscovered craft, a unique know-how, a sharp eye and a skillful hand driven by a mind, a will, a tenacity, an energy and an almost musical rhythm which are his very own.

In creating a work, Goudji " lets the substance talk ". With no preparatory drawing as a rule, he cuts the silver sheet by eye, never measuring it. He shapes it with a mallet on a block, then hammers it on a beaked anvil.

In sharp contrast with our image of the goldsmith as a painstaking craftsman is the enormous energy and physical strength required for hammering, combined with a skillful hand and a sharp eye.

A rich symbol and a reminder of the artist's presence and the intimacy of his creative process, Goudji's apron is more than a modest working garment. Yet it is also a necessary ally in his toils, protecting the artist from the bite of metal, the burn of molten silver or the splashing of acid, the effects of which can so often be seen on his hands. Burnished with time, the living leather of the apron bears the stigma of daily use and the mishaps which come from tiredness.

A hundred times over, the artist struggles to change the small anvil on the vice, a hundred times he must switch hammers, so as to adapt peen and anvil to the cunature he seeks. His tools are perfectly polished as any defect would immediately be reflected, like a hallmark, on the crushed metal. A hundred times over he smelts, dips in acid and restores flexibility and life to the beaten metal. To prevent deformation, breakage or tearing, the work must be heated uniformly.

Before assembling the pieces, an operation which would make the following step more complex, the artist stamps on the hallmarks which are his signature and guarantee.

Prepared separately, the elements of each particular work are then assembled and soldered. The goldsmith ref~nes the edges needing to be joined, coats them with flux, puts them together and heats them simultaneoualy. When the color of the metal shows the correct temperature, he welds and hammers them into shape, dips them in a cyanhydric acid solution and then rinses them in clear water. Beaten and polished, the welding marks disappear.

Once the goldsmith's work is completed, and before the gem cutter can intervene, the future work of art is sent to the "Bureau de la Garantie de Paris", which checks the weight and grade of the metal, and stamps on its guarantee mark.

The thick walls are made by assembling two parallel volumes with a hollow in between in which small encasements are placed. These are inlaid with ornamental stones cut from the block, assembled and polished by Thierry, a gem cutter who trained in Goudji's own extremely demanding school. They highlight the purity of the shapes, balance volumes, give rigidity to the metal and enrich works in which the light plays differently on metal and mineral, intimately wed using a highly original technique.

Afier the ornamental stones have been inlaid and polished, the work is given a thin coating of silver - or gold in the case of gold or vermeil woris - by electrolysis. Having been brightened with a polishing pad, the mat electrolytic skin is then sand-polished by hand to give it life, and the artist renders its final appearance with an agate burnishing which veins the surface and catches the light across the surface of the beaten metal.

Recreating the art of the sheet metalworker, the goldsmith, the jeweler, the gem cutter and the coppersmith, Goudji transcends their crafts, rediscovering the art of ancient toreutics. He searches lost civilizations for the elements of universality and timelessness they introduced, and uses these to create bold new shapes, featuring a weird and wonderful collection of animals.

They represent the austere refinements of a people constantly erring in the immensity of landscape and the infinity of the mind, of nomad peoples who clothed themselves in their treasures. It is the primitive purity of the mythical and sacred forms of Ancient Eastern civilizations and the Western BarDarians; the virtuosity of the Lower Roman Empire and the Italian Renaissance artists who did not hesitate to hollow out crystals just as metal was forged. These are the many treasures that GoudJi has dared to recreate for our uncertain times and for eternity, selecting the very rarest blocks and recreating lost techniques. But does not history teach us that it is when nations vacillate that they produce art which represents the utmost in refinement, eternity and transcience? Was it not in the darkest depths that Niebelungen's gold, or the carbuncle of legends, was hidden? And was it not in the formidable refuge of the cyclops that the gods' weapons were forged?

A contemporary witness of bygone ages and an archaeologist of present times, Goudji reminds and recreates, transforms and suggests. His reference is no longer the present, but eternity.

Jacques Santrot

Directeur des Musées de Loire-Atlantique

Conservateur en Chef du Musée Dobrée


The artist
Sacred Art