Exhibition  /  03 Feb 2008  -  02 Apr 2008
Published: 04.03.2008
Erik Kuiper. Brooch: Boötes, 2007. Aluminium, plaster, silver, goldleaf, concrete, glue. Erik Kuiper
Brooch: Boötes, 2007
Aluminium, plaster, silver, goldleaf, concrete, glue
© By the author. Read Copyright.

Building is one of our primal instincts, after you provide for food and personal covering, protection, the next thing you look for is shelter."

Artist list

Erik Kuiper

Erik Kuiper has been making jewellery since 2005. In that year he graduated from the Gerrit Rietveld Art Academy in Amsterdam, with a jewellery collection inspired by architectonic layouts. A number of these jewellery pieces were made of material such as old blankets, weighed down with lead. These jewellery pieces should function like a second or, as Erik Kuiper prefers to say, 'third' skin. They are like a protective layer that, because of their weight, feel like armour, while the woollen material of the blanket refers to enfolding, to warmth and insulation. For many of those that saw the jewellery, the old-fashioned pattern of the blanket will have transported them back to their childhood: to those cold winter nights, with blankets snugly wrapped around you.

This past year, Erik Kuiper has taken a new step in his work, though the fascination with architecture continues. "Constructing is part of my battle against impermanence", he says; "I find it beautiful to build, to create something. A layout provides a foothold, you have to make it happen along those lines. And building is one of our primal instincts, after you provide for food and personal covering, protection, the next thing you look for is shelter." Here Kuiper also has in mind the overload of contemporary existence: how our lives are dictated by so many outside influences, how we are run by our appointments, commitments and requests, and how we are always reachable and continuously and involuntarily bombarded by news and information from the world around. How can we shield ourselves against this onslaught? The line between inside and outside, between private and public, is fading. In his new work, Erik Kuiper addresses this field of tension. 
Weltinnenraum is the title that points precisely to the dimension that Erik Kuiper wants to explore. A dimension in which the distinctions between inside and outside, between yourself and the world, dissolve. His new jewellery pieces, constructed from a wide variety of materials, contain all layers of the Weltinnenraum, from the skin, via clothing and the shelter of home, to the overarching firmament. These layers are not represented literally, but the method of construction and the finishing are suggestive of such a layering.
Erik Kuiper's new pieces, now brooches only, are based on the outlines of a bunker. These are massive and sturdy shelters or bastions, but are at the same time reminiscent of temples. The construction of the brooches is guided by the layout, which seems rational but actually is not. Based on this layout, Kuiper starts building layer after layer, finally completing the construction by adding outer walls made of aluminium sheet. The work proceeds intuitively, not according to any plan, and the materials are selected by touch. These are the materials of a builder: gypsum, gypsum board, plaster, plaster wire mesh, putty, sealant, paint, netting, wood, tape, concrete, iron, insulation foam and paper. Not exactly your regular jewellery materials, but their nature and materiality embody the soberness and rawness of construction work that Kuiper seeks in his pieces. His working method, which requires time for each layer to dry, means that he can work on five to ten pieces simultaneously.
Some of the brooches exhibit intriguing and variously sized holes. These are sometimes on top, sometimes in the sides and sometimes on the bottom side. The patterns appear arbitrary, but only seemingly so: the holes actually represent the stars that stud the firmament, and the patterns are carefully copied from star charts. It is a reference to that extra layer that surrounds us. The stars remind us of our trifling and impermanent presence on earth, and they also continue to be important for navigation. Sometimes the layouts, in silver, gold or brass, vaguely shimmer through the smoothly scoured top layers. They seem to symbolise Kuiper's actual trade, that of jewellery smith. Every brooch contains one or other component made of silver or gold, though this is sometimes only revealed in the caption text listing the materials used. Erik Kuiper nevertheless insists on using these materials, for he is, after all, a jewellery smith. These materials are his umbilical connection to the trade in which he was so thoroughly trained (initially at a Trade school and then at the art academy in Amsterdam). Still, he greatly enjoys covering these components with putty or paint. There is some satisfaction in confronting the viewer with a mystery: where on earth, in this brooch, is the silver or gold to be found? Indeed, how can we be sure that there is such a component?
These brooches present a curious contradiction. On the one hand they are robust, defensive, raw (the bunker); on the other they have an upward-reaching, mysterious and evanescent character (the temple), due to their colour scheme. This is a scheme based on the denial of colour, as all the brooches (except one or two) are white: a non-colour. At the same time, white symbolises purity, cleanliness, and the exalted. But pure white does not exist, and Erik Kuiper makes use of that quality to drape his brooches in a wide variety of whites: ivory white, dirty white, zinc white, bright white, lead white, sallow white, silver white, snow white, milk white, titanium white, broken white. This makes them seem vulnerable, deflating the sturdy foundation of the basic shape.

Erik Kuiper's brooches spur various questions. Because of their form, they appear heavier than they actually are, while their whiteness makes it seem as if they want to dissolve into thin air. Yet their architectonic character dominates, without being clear whether these are buildings under construction or in decay. Are they constructions with a wearing pin, or are they crafted jewellery? Regardless of these questions, it is very important to Erik Kuiper that they are actually worn, also by women. The brooches belong on the body, and Kuiper is fond of the spot where jewellery is worn. Jewellery pieces have to be fragile, vulnerable and attractive, so that you want to wear them very close to you. He strives to infuse his pieces with that feeling through many hours of painstaking work. Vulnerability and presence in one. For Kuiper, it is beyond question that you need to make an effort for a jewellery piece, and that is why the weight and size of his brooches are manageable, if only just. "It's like a comforting arm around your shoulder. That weight is reassuring."
Kuiper's brooches offer personal security, like a shield against the intrusive world around. This results in the strange phenomenon of brooches with a communicative value that serves to harness and protect, rather than seduce.

Liesbeth den Besten, November 2007 

Erik Kuiper. Brooch: Norma, 2007. Plaster, wood, aluminium, filler, silicon. Erik Kuiper
Brooch: Norma, 2007
Plaster, wood, aluminium, filler, silicon
© By the author. Read Copyright.
Erik Kuiper. Brooch: Fomalhaut, 2007. Aluminium, plaster, filler, brass, silver, sealant, paint. Erik Kuiper
Brooch: Fomalhaut, 2007
Aluminium, plaster, filler, brass, silver, sealant, paint
© By the author. Read Copyright.
Erik Kuiper. Brooch: Sabik, 2007. Concrete, plaster, filler, paint, silver, tape. Erik Kuiper
Brooch: Sabik, 2007
Concrete, plaster, filler, paint, silver, tape
© By the author. Read Copyright.
Erik Kuiper. Brooch: Scutum I, 2007. Wood, aluminium, silver, tape, iron, wool blanket, paint, filler. Erik Kuiper
Brooch: Scutum I, 2007
Wood, aluminium, silver, tape, iron, wool blanket, paint, filler
© By the author. Read Copyright.