17th July – 28th Sept 2008

Antique meets Contemporary

‘Lingam’ – pendant in glass, wood and malachite
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About Us

Ruudt Peters


In south-east Asia phallus has an opener meaning than only sex. The penis is worshiped in temples as fertility symbol. For example in Thailand men are wearing penis talismans inside their pants as devotion to fertility. The series 'Lingam' is worn as jewelry on the height of the genitals.. I am dedicated to the versatile aspect of the lingam. In Asia people worship the lingam for good life. I hope you can understand my point of view.
Ruudt Peters 2008

Ruudt Peters has been granted the prestigious prize awarded by the Françoise van den Bosch Foundation. He defines himself as a philosopher and an alchemist — the disconcerting austerity of his pieces often makes them less like jewels than like autonomous objects to be instantly claimed and possessed by the wearer, like natural stones or seashells. The lucidity of this aesthetic drive towards our most immediate surroundings sums up the artistic creation of Ruudt Peters, which is inextricably linked to his life experience.

Despite its hermetic nature, the successful practice of alchemy depends upon a mastery of nature. In other words, this art does not rest upon books or manuals but rather upon observing with a keen interest and imitating the processes of nature. Alchemy is a tribute to an enlightened perception, to the patient quest for the absolute, which aims not only for the miraculous generation of that most pure and symbolic of materials — gold — but serves also as an allegory of our existence, a metaphoric representation of the refinement of spirit. Alchemy is a poetic means of understanding and describing reality, with its dual nature based upon the continuous union and separation of opposites — life and death, man and woman, micro-cosmos and macro-cosmos — and it holds an unquestionable attraction for artistic creation. According to Ruudt Peters, life experience and the production of art are inextricably linked. Art becomes a privileged path to self-knowledge, which allows one to learn anew how to perceive, to breathe, to feel, with an enlightened and attentive pre-iconographic perception that leads to true life experience. Ruudt Peters is attracted to the image of an alchemist artist with heightened sensitivity, open to the influence of the environment and able to blend into the surroundings, identify with the objects. In the realm of jewellery, the individual’s capacity to identify with an object becomes especially revealing. As in the case of a lovers’ union — which is often used as a descriptive comparison in the formulae of alchemy — desire is the main ingredient of this relationship: there must be a will to identify with oneself, to seduce, communicate with and ultimately to possess a symbolic container of the individual‰s intimacy, (tastes, interests), that portray him in a public context.

During the early nineties Peters started to experiment with the creation of personal objects (he tends to avoid the traditional terms used to describe jewellery) that served as symbolic containers of the individual, in a collection of pieces designed for six friends. The ”Dedicated to” series consisted of a number of objects that were loaded with memories and emotional content for their recipients. The notion of time and especially of the past finds expression in the architecturally inspired jewels of the ”Interno” series. Architecture provides the supreme examples of inhabitable containers that also embody history, in this case by evoking the majestic past of renaissance domes. In these brooches the vaults display their interior elements on the outside surface, in an optical illusion reminiscent of the Piranesi engravings to which Peters seems to be paying tribute. This surfacing of the innermost reminds us of the evocative power of jewellery, while the dome-like shape of these pieces brings to mind the image of a basket, once again a symbolic container.

Throughout his dialogue with history Peters not only enjoys evoking a solid and classical past, as in the architectural pieces of the Interno series. He is also interested in recovering a number of myths whose tragic nature grants them a certain morbid beauty. The ”Passio” series of pendants — from 1993 — was inspired by the recollection of a number of dramatic characters whose lives were led by passionate impulses and ended in a tragic manner. Eros and Thanatos, the drive of life and death exist side by side in these pieces. On the one hand, most of them are pendants crafted out of oxidated silver, and are as black in colour as the mourning jewels from the nineteenth century. On the other, the chains are so long that the egg-shaped pendants are suspended over the belly or the genital area of the wearer, bringing to mind a symbol of fertility or a lingam — the phallic image of the Hindu tradition that also symbolises the integration of the sexes. All of a sudden we find that these jewels are a true celebration of the creative power of the Universe, and we witness an erotic interpretation of alchemy — one which is parallel to the Tantric tradition — where sexual activity can be a form of meditation and a quest for the absolute. From this series onwards Ruudt Peters shows an ever-growing interest in oriental schools of philosophy. In a sense, the creation of these philosopher’s eggs suspended from opulent meshes and chains signals an increasing and more literal presence of Peters’ alchemy processes.

The Ouroboros series (1994) is largely the result of a trip to India. Ouroboros is a mythical serpent that bites its own tail, destroying and regenerating itself in an eternal continuum. It symbolises the circular and cyclical nature of time, as well as the disappearance or fusing of opposites. In this series of hand objects, nature and culture, rough uncut mineral and crafted metal are impossible to tell apart as they blend into a single presence under a layer of colour. They seem to float, as self-generated creations — the pigment has erased any sign of the artist’s intervention. They are tautological pieces, in that their position on the hand can be turned over and the opposites become equal. In some cases this sense of union is poetically reinforced by a thread, wrapped around the piece like the twine with which Hindu sweethearts join their hands together as a sign of their love. The colours chosen by the artist are also symbolic and they represent various stages of alchemy. The colour seems to attract and concentrate cosmic energy, in a process reminiscent of the ideas of French painter and performer Yves Klein, who became renowned for his predominant use of a deep cobalt blue. Klein believed that colour helps to activate an extra-lucid, non-rational perception that inspires an unexplainable feeling of irritation, fascination or relaxation. This pre-logical approach to objects certainly appeals to Ruudt Peters, as a method to attain true experience.

Shortly after the Ouroboros work, this jeweller-alchemist decided to create his own raw materials and developed a complex process to fuse together several different minerals with substances such as sulphur or beeswax, in the Lapis series (1997). The process consists of a combination of the minerals that he considers to be masculine (they shatter in sharp-edged, angular shapes) with those that he sees as feminine (those that break off in rounded shapes). The names of the pieces bring to mind unmistakable references to alchemy: ”Prima Materia”, ”Solutio”, ”Nigredo”, ”Aqua Permanens”... Not only are seemingly lifeless materials imbued with gender, but the finished jewels are treated as living beings, in the sense that proper attention is paid to their habitat (they are exhibited in installations that allow the spectator to touch the pieces) and to their transformation over time (through wear or erosion). In the recent ”Pneuma” series (2000) jewels are infused with an organic nature through a breathing metaphor. They channel the energy on the inside of an individual towards the outside and vice-versa, while acting as a membrane that separates and brings together the public and private aspects of the person. These pieces are crafted out of translucent and formless plastic. In Ruudt Peters’ creations this most humble of materials, the poor relative of precious stones, acquires a surprisingly valuable worth. As British sculptor Tony Cragg has repeatedly proven, plastic is a ubiquitous reality in our everyday environments, found in the most banal and anonymous objects. According to this sculptor, the mentioned consistency between an artist and his environment makes the everyday arsenal of plastic objects our truest self-portrait. At the end of the day, we are our possessions.

Mònica Gaspar

Biographical Details

Artists taking part in Power & Politics are: Ruudt Peters; Laura Deakin; Inger Larsen; Silke Spitzer;
Anti-War Medals
by Susanne Matsche; Emily Bullock; Susanne Osborn.
Power & Politics Antique pieces. Other themes: Memento Mori; Sentiment & Sex; The Lighter Side.