The force majeure of the jewellery world. Bron by Ruudt Peters

Article  /  CriticalThinking   Essays   TanelVeenre
Published: 27.03.2019
Tanel Veenre
Tanel Veenre

Tanel Veenre
Edited by:
Edited at:
Edited on:
Ruudt Peters. Brooch: Corpus Cauda, 2011. Polyurethan, silver. Ruudt Peters
Brooch: Corpus Cauda, 2011
Polyurethan, silver
© By the author. Read Copyright.

Ruudt Peters’s exhibition Bron is an astral, arbitrary puzzle of an artist’s life, one of many possibilities and yet the sole possibility.
Ruudt Peters is one of the strongest personalities in contemporary jewellery art. His influence has sufficed to lead forces forth into the field of art and education. Peters is a force majeure, with the passion that can arise only from an inner fire. Yes, force majeure – the stuff of wars, revolts and strikes, floods, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and other dramatic paroxysms that bring great change. On the planet of Peters, all these occur, the tectonic power of its land masses astonishes and terrifies – how to keep it all together? Where is his centre of gravity?
Overcoming oneself
In a recent conversation with an influential jewellery theorist about the nature of art education and modern scepticism, talk quickly turned to Peters, who has left a mark on many acclaimed art academies (most thoroughly on Amsterdam’s Rietveld, Stockholm’s Konstfack, Florence’s Alchimia) and through workshops, ignited young talents in countless schools. Peters’s methods are controversial: he considers artistic work to be sparked by the flame burning within a person, and finding it can often be a traumatic experience. He sees overcoming oneself – a practically ritual and ecstatic aspect – as a part of growth. In the opinion of the jewellery philosopher I was talking to, it was horribly irresponsible to be delving into the inner lodes of other souls. An artist is not a psychologist, and playing with human souls requires the utmost sensitivity and discretion, they said. How many people has Peters palpated and kneaded and broken along his way! Yet it’s true that a countless number of talents have emerged from his crucible. Naturally, an uncompromising resolve that feeds on traumas doesn’t go well with the current middle way, where what you learn at school has to be presentable on a spreadsheet.
When I met him after the opening of the Tallinn exhibition, Peters admitted that his great teaching period is now behind him, and unleashing so much energy is a huge responsibility, and he has never been content to just be a warm body or a placeholder. It’s all or nothing for him.
From traumas to flux
I arrived in the Netherlands in October 1997 as an exchange student and found myself in big parking lot in a small city where used vehicles were traded. We were post-Soviet people, poor as church rats and the car traders’ minivan filed with a whole gallery of new self-styled businessmen was the cheapest way of getting close to Amsterdam. Ahead of me lay a year as an exchange student at the storied Gerrit Rietveld Academie, where the jewellery department was led by Peters. It was a time when studying abroad, like flying on an airplane, was something extraordinary, the stint was made possible by my home professor Kadri Mälk’s close ties with the leading lights of the jewellery world.
My contact with Peters was delicate during my studies, it seems that the trauma-based exacted more of a toll on the girls from Germany, who embroidered their studies with tears. I was on the other hand revolved in my own orbits, I was melancholy and naturally quiet, and had no external distractions. Ruudt Peters taught me intuitively, more by example and through the force of his creative persona, as a self-actualizing independent thinker. The understanding matured years later, as I sailed out into the jewellery world with my colleagues.
That same year, 1997, Peters had released a series called Lapis – collections of materials connected by tangled wires. Looking at these works, the presence of energy could be sensed practically on a physical level, the artistic language used suggested a laboratory origin. Peters has always been marvellous at creating motifs, precise, never glib. The series crackled with electricity, everything seemed to be in flux. The metamorphic aspect has come to prominence time and again in his works, every work is an artefact of a moment that marks a change. Above all a change as a person, for Peters’ work is extremely human. Maybe it is even so human that it can make you cry, like in the series Corpus, Christ reduced to a vulnerable person, dark grey forms with a bowed head. Endlessly sad in their forsakenness by their father and by others, only one’s own whims left.
God’s laughter
For me, the most interesting part of art is about creating meaning and when I enter meaning, it becomes a question of belief. Peters is not afraid of disrupting powerful fields of meaning, short-circuiting them and thus making space for the rise of new meaning. The presence of belief is inevitable. And before meaning, the viewer’s imagination has free rein. Imagination is uniquely human, other creatures likely don’t have such an ability. And within imagination lies the key; it is the threshold of meaning that leads onward to belief.
Peters’s work is powerfully sexual, the corporeality can be present simultaneously in the form of both elegance preoccupied with looking beautiful and animal, primal power. For extremely aesthetic artists, the former is likely a smokescreen for the latter. When a person is erudite, it is hard to banish cultural references; the consciousness doesn’t allow one to be savage alone. It must be said that Ruudt Peters’s roots spread out expansively all over the world: Christianity, antiquity, the Orient, all that has been wrought in the past is nectar for a thirsty creator. How much does such reformulation influence our current culture? I really don’t know. No doubt we’re all cell-lets in a fragmentary culture of references, with no escape. There’s only the possibility of reflecting. And when the urge comes up to flee from the reflecting, then comes the Anima series, where the artist is only the catalyst for the laws of physics to do the rest. The origins of this series should be familiar to Estonians, as the New Year’s Eve tradition pouring of molten lead into cold water is similar to Anima’s creation process. People think, and the laws of physics guide. And God in his heaven tries to stifle his laughter.
Star in his own galaxy
For me, Ruudt’s feverish darting – a new series created every year or two, powerful, intensely aglow – have seemed almost like panicked attempts to prove the existence of the human soul. The current mercantilist atheism doesn’t feed an artist’s soul and so one must delve into the deeper strata of culture. And it is still a mystery even for omnipotent science – why do we feel pain and love? This is the artist’s chance to step into the ring and solve the riddle with an artist’s methods. Peters’s work is an inquiry into human beings: where is the source of our life force? Incidentally, this November, an exhibition curated by Peters, 21 Grams, opens in China, the title of course being one proposed definition of the human soul. Supposedly we lose that much mass at the moment of death. Is that how the source of our life force, the soul, departs?
I consider the artist’s desire to be seen extremely sexual, presence is marked by a positive vanity. Animals, especially males, tend to mark their territory. It appears that Ruudt Peters has made a conscious choice to be a star – a star in the jewellery firmament, the centre of his galaxy and one of the most intensely burning celestial bodies in the universe. Bron itself is astral: the traces of art are hovering, scattered in orbit, an arbitrary puzzle of an artist’s life, one of many possibilities and yet the sole possibility.

Ruudt Peters BRON at Museo del Gioiello Vicenza, in Basilica Palladiana,
Piazza dei Signori, Vicenza, Italy
5 April until 22 September, 2019


About the author

Tanel Veenre is one of contemporary jewellery’s most dynamic personalities. Divided between fashion, photography, theatre and contemporary crafts, Tanel seems to be able to navigate every corner of the creative spectrum.