Ramon Puig. An hybrid mind

Article  /  Artists
Published: 03.01.2007
Ramon Puig. An hybrid mind.
Ana Campos
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Ramón Puig, a Catalan jeweller, shows, through his work, an intense emotional and belonging relationship with the Mediterranean world.
Lecture in the seminar: Mediterranean – Open Perimeter
ESAD - Escola Superior de Artes e Design, Senhora da Hora, Portugal – 2003
Translation from Portuguese: Sandra Ribeiro

Hybridism has always been related to travelling, meetings and human contacts. Far from being merely biological, it reflects itself on the mind, on the language, on the materialisation of the imaginary, and also on various human practices, thus being a generator of multiple intercultural forms. In all these aspects the unexpected is always created; it represents future actions. Each situation that is observed has, in the daily practices, its own particular characteristics, the reasons for its existence, its own dynamics.

All hybrid minds can mediate between, at least, two visions of the world. There are dialogues and confrontations, tensions or temporary resolutions between two territories, in which neither anything is definite nor one triumphs over the other. If identity is never unchangeable but something one builds in a constant movement, simultaneously or progressively, activating both sides of each individual according to the interaction one lives and according to one’s personal history, a hybrid context leads the individual not only to a permanent questioning, but it also allows him to confront, criticise and to use elements from both sides. A penetrable boundary is constantly trespassed from one side to the other. For each individual, the identification with each one of those worldly visions is almost as important as the relationship they want to establish between both. Not clearly meaning belonging, it also doesn’t mean alterity, but rather an interwoven identity and alterity. That is: it causes a double process, feelings which tend to associate and try to disentangle.

Today we see, parallel to globalisation, a crisis in the attribution of meanings to symbols and institutions, as a consequence of the acceleration of history, the reduction of space, the individualisation of the itineraries and destinations. The large quantity of information that each individual receives, through the various means of communication, leads to virtual journeys, contributing, just like a real journey, to the creation of contacts and new worldly visions. There is a new symbolic material in the production phase, where “it is obvious that the hybrid character of all cultures creates alternatives to the domination rhetorics”. By opposing total homogeneity and heterogeneous fragmentation, hybridism presents itself today as a new form of dialogue capable of developing social cohesion.

The net of contacts established centuries ago throughout the Mediterranean bay originated a composite culture from which are frequently quoted numerous cases of hybridism. Dialogues between ways of thinking and doing, imaginaries and visions of the world, beliefs and religions and between various practical reasons, made it possible, still today, to observe hybridism in architecture and mobile artefacts and also in the way materials or building and production techniques are mixed. Food itself is also an important proof.

Ramón Puig, a Catalan jeweller, shows, through his work, an intense emotional and belonging relationship with the Mediterranean world. For this reason, in his work, reflexive travelling gives continuity to his long historic heritage and to this way of hybrid thinking, as if he took a journey through the memories of places, legends and myths, that have been built around this sea that time and men made symbolic. Fragments of this composite culture, which he quotes and reanimates by daily observing by the sea, together make up the pallet with which he creates jewels. He acts according to an over modernist thought, questioning himself about the consequences, in current times, of the super redimensioning of factors, characteristic of modern times. Through reflection and searching for pillars to introduce new creative dynamics in current times, he works the memory and reuses it, transforming it into matter that, together with what he observes in today’s world and in human dynamics, he uses to build projects. According to this point of view, Ramón feels that to face up to the changes that appear with globalisation, at a quick pace, it is necessary that we become “memory nomads (…)” re-establishing “a new humanism that enlightens us through new paths of change”.

For Ramón’s creative process, which joins in dialogue arts that express the way of thinking and doing of two cultural scenarios – plastic arts and jeweller – other remote reasons meet. Remounting to Quattrocento Florentino, the separation between speculative arts and workmanship, appearing within what then became known as architecture, gave birth to a social division of work, giving rise to a singular artist that conceives and to the artisans that carry out the manual work in the building yard.

During the transition to the 20th century appeared in England a project with new social characteristics that suggested the union of the arts. This was known as the “arts and crafts” dialogue, which would reflect itself throughout several European cities. Among them, Barcelona, which had great prominence as can be seen for instance in Gaudi’s work. It was in this spirit of dialogue, generator of an effective fusion of the arts, that the Massana School was born, where Ramón studied and is now a professor.

Thus, the construction of his work, inscribed in a new jewellery scenario, is also supported by an artistic initiation that establishes a hybridism between ways of thinking, doing and acting characteristic of the plastic arts scenario and of the applied arts. It aimed at the creation of jewels that by expressing its character as author would be the bearer of speculative and poetic contents, just like in the plastic arts. It included specific jewellery techniques related to artisan handwork, inherent to the applied arts.

For Ramón none of these instigating elements of creation prevails. He uses artisan processes – today replaced by the overvalorization of sophisticated technological means – associating them to plastic arts processes and theoretical knowledge related to aesthetics and other fields. He combines them in an expressive dialogue where the vitality reflected in each jewel comes from his ability to transform and criticise both his plastic and applied arts inheritances.
Today, in a time that is clearly polyphonic, by opposing the domination rhetoric when he shows his option for this dialogue, he reveals attitudes which represent the assumption of a humanist role. Because he is positioned in a penetrable boundary line which he constantly crosses, it is not possible to include his work in a dominated aesthetic orientation. It is only possible to include it in the net in which it is inscribed, where many other jewellers use hybrid expressions. Speculating and causing the interaction of artistic processes, Ramón introduces a creative dynamic, which represents his contribution to the invention of a new scenario in the visual arts where jewellers of the same viewpoint are social actors.

Most of his jewels are connected to the Mediterranean world, to the sea, to rituals, myths, and beliefs, to Atlantis. This last myth, which Ramón brings back to life, being created or made visible by Plato, has entered the imaginary of this composite culture, reinforcing itself and keeping its presence alive. One may consider that “the expression Jazirat-al-Andaluz, the island of the Al Andaluz – nowadays the Iberian Peninsula -, adapted by classic Arabian texts, is simply the translation-adaptation of Island of the Atlantic or Atlantis”.

In the series he named Impressions of Atlantis, by fictioning, by recreating ex-vows, he produces jewels that, although they seem archaeological findings, they represent a metaphor of his journey of reflexive discovery. He immerges in himself to create. The brooch Cel i Mar, that is part of this series, is an example to show how with his hybrid thought he fabricated a hybrid aesthetic. The name that as an author he gave to it is related to the meaning of the metaphoric message implied. It is possible to see symbolic representations where the order of the elements, which would seem natural, was changed. He integrated them in a composition based on multiplicity. Poetically, revealing elements of his subjective universe, he represented the moon, stars and other planets simultaneously and practically on the same plan; set on a blue background with which he evokes the sea with waves and the sky, he connected the imaginary linear trajectories of those stars, making them visible. These radii formed with the trajectories reveal the outline of a sun. By using the discursive strategies which he, as author, adopted – conjugating quotations, joining fragments, creating association and expressing himself through metaphors – he gave Cel i Mar a plastic and poetic expression.

Simultaneously and in an intimate dialogue during production, he uses processes connected to the artisan know how. Through interpretation and recreation he also speculates about these processes, thus marking his inventive character. By making them expressive, just like some plastic artists would do, he distances himself from the rigidness and preciosity of the manufacture traditionally connected to western jewellery. Through the use of artisan techniques, he welds metals. In Cel i Mar, the sea and the sky were made from brass, the trajectories and stars from alpaca. Then, once again proceeding as an author, he highlighted the expression of the shapes. He oxidised the brass making it a bluish green and on the surface he created a visual texture; he covered the stars with a plate of silver to make them more luminous; in the linear trajectories, just like in some of the stars, he kept the marks left by the hammer visible – like many jewellers had, previously or in other societies, done – and he did the same thing with the waves which show the sawing movement, advancing in a spiral.
In other jewels, meeting a past full of mist of tales, he reinvents fictitious anthropomorphic beings, making them inhabitants of the sea, or mythological Greek Latin images, who nourished so many other hybrid thoughts. He then remembers Neptune, Nereid and Nereus. The shapes enhance details that to him characterise the characters. In the feminine bodies he enhances the lines and the breast; in masculine bodies the crotch and the head, which he transforms into a crown. Several sketches of Nereid also have a fish tail as a characteristic, transforming it, too, into an anthropomorphic image, through the conjugation with this fragment of the visual speech that will reappear in other jewels.
He always reveals his way of thinking through fiction. He creates mysteries around his daily reality and around memories that make him transform intoimages certain ideas. Using quotations, he represents the sea inhabited by fish, jellyfish, sea stars and so many other animals with colours that only exist in his imagination. He associates them
metaphorically with dual figures, the sky, in the day or at night, with stars and other planets. Sometimes he represents mermaids. He shows, beyond evident fiction, that by quoting them he tells what that anthropomorphic being represents in his imaginary. Just like happened in Impressions of Atlantis, many of these images were seen in Miró. Although from the shape’s point of view they are different, certain mermaids and other jewels bring to mind that picture with graphisms and free fantastic spots, full of joy and colour. I would say it isn’t just their vision upon the Mediterranean world – the sea, the sun, the light, the colours – as Ramón wants. There is something else that Ramón seems to have seen in Miró, retaining an image which surely is not a copy but an interpretation. I’m referring to the primitivism of the plastic expression they adopted, and also to the way they dedicate themselves to the creative act, to the dialogue with the matter. Both artists’ work hints at spontaneous gestures, looking like the creative act had no previous studies. In this spontaneity lies an equivalent coincidence to something André Breton wrote: “maybe there’s nothing more in Joan Miró than a desire, the desire to give himself up to painting and just to painting”.

Ramón elaborates, in the context in which he inscribes himself, a mental representation on artefacts whose themes are connected to symbolic acts or beliefs of other times and societies. Focusing on the values, this representation has an emotional character, making it simultaneously expressive and representative of a practical reason to act. Therefore he recreates amulets, ex-vows and mementos. By reinventing them he creates jewels he calls “orientation objects”. Wanting with these to invent metaphoric artifices for a so-called defense in life’s journey, frequently establishing relationships of similar semantics, he introduces in the jewels seaorientation instruments such as maps or stars.

He also shows other practical reasons to use primitive techniques. When working, he wants the action to be produced in record time. In the dialogue between mind, hands and matter, he doesn’t want to lose the ideas that occur. Metals, other materials and techniques which he adopts, being so varied, have to be able to establish a link with the mind which facilitates the rise of forms quickly. With this option he also marks a reactive attitude. By using plastic means, with which he is able to make a jewel fast and expressively, he distances himself radically from the technical and configurative conjunctures of traditional western jewellery. Except for the welding of the metals and the sawing with thin jeweller’s blades, the gestual way of how he paints or ties stones with metal wire are, while processes, elementary. Recently, over the workbench, Ramón dialogues with materials which he finds. He uses them as fragments which he combines with each other and like memories of details of the beach, a street, of a place where he’s been. They attracted his vision, he collects them. When these fragments are by the sea, the water, when it touches them, highlights the forms, colours and textures. The techniques he uses today continue to be primitive but they are not transformative. They consist in tying found fragments with metal wire or in gluing thin strips of wood which he paints with strong colours, blues and yellows, happy and luminous.

From the big window of his studio one can see the sea not very far away. One can hear the movements of the boats and of those who work at the harbour. In his entire house there is an involving contact with the clear light of the Mediterranean. Looking out the window of his studio I see the same colours on the boats which leave and then return to the harbour. In some cases, even the forms and the colours of enormous wharfage, which lift the containers of fish from the boats, seem like fragments of some of his jewels. When the night falls, revealing the moon and the stars, in the silence, boats ahead are only seen through small lights that move in the sea. Mediterranean culture, life in nature and the human activities related to the sea are interpreted in his work.

© Ana Campos


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8-in Fusco, R., 1993:192, História da Arte Contemporânea, Lisbon, Presença.


Lecture in the seminar: Mediterranean – Open Perimeter.
ESAD - Escola Superior de Artes e Design, Senhora da Hora, Portugal – 2003

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