We all die, but we don't know when. Our lifespan is uncertain, but it also provides an intriguing tension. Ruudt Peters interviewed by Yuxi Sun and Grace Horler

Interview  /  YuxiSun   GraceHorler   Curating   Exhibiting
Published: 20.10.2018
Ruudt Peters Ruudt Peters
Yuxi Sun, Grace Horler
Edited by:
Edited at:
Edited on:
Jie Sun. Brooch: Who are you, 2018. Golden paint, metal, resin.. 6.7 x 3.4 x 1.8cm. Jie Sun
Brooch: Who are you, 2018
Golden paint, metal, resin.
6.7 x 3.4 x 1.8cm
© By the author. Read Copyright.

As the 21 grams exhibition draws closer, starting in November 2018, Yuxi and Grace ask Ruudt Peters a collection of questions delving deeper into the concept behind 21 grams. The weight of "21 grams" is a mysterious concept, both imaginative and literally.  With this exhibition, Ruudt Peters wants to challenge jewelry makers to create a new work of art, especially made for this show, that translates the idea of the soul in a physical object that weighs no more than “21 grams”
The exhibition "21 grams" will be organized by the Chinese Academy of Art in Hangzhou China and shown at different locations in the world.

中文版 - Chinese version      View / hide description

After 3 years, you are back to China for another extraordinary project, you have established many connections with Chinese artists since then as well. Can you describe the changes and growth you have seen within art jewellery (in China) in the past years, what impressed you the most?
China is an incredible fast growing society. Indication and movements follow each other quickly. Indication goes at a furious speed, just like technological developments. About the jewellery, Chinese people are very up to date with what happens in the world, they try to give an answer to what is important in their Chinese culture. The Chinese culture is 180 degrees different from the Western and this yields other things. I don’t understand Chinese people and I will never do.

21g-The Heart Sutra, Meiing Hsu, 2018, bamboo, bamboo charcoal, paper, cotton yarn, brass.

Nowadays, we are in a globalised world. It’s not always as easy to define anything according to the country. However, culture and history will always be rooted in blood and tradition. With this in mind do you see a difference between the works from European artists and Asian artists? What’s the most notable aspects for you in the work from Asian artists?
If you ask an American and a Chinese what he or she sees in an aquarium than the American will say that he sees 10 fishes in a orange color. The Chinese will say “Oooh they move from left to right!”, “Oooh ! what a beautiful shades!” and “Oooh ! The color goes from light to dark!”. We are straight forward and the Chines are holistic, they see the world, the nature in one whole constelation. For me personally I do not believe in globalization, the place where you are born is essential for the work you make. The way of thinking, smelling and feeling is embedded in your origin. For instants I try to point out to every student his or her origin and I support that they make work related to their childhood experience.
For me European artists have a kind of rational thought that comes from a Christian upbringing. The oriental artists have been brought up with Buddhism, Taoism, Confucianism. They worship their ancestors by means of burning rituals. This kind of thought is reflected in their language and work.

You have been working in the jewellery field with different people for many years. What has been the main challenge for you in the collaboration with a Chinese university? What’s the biggest difference comparing with other collaboration you have made before?
If you make a proposal to a Chinese and he does not agree, you will not receive an answer. The word No, does not exist in their culture, and losing face is the most painful thing you can do to someone in China. If you master this habit, you can communicate in a very constructive way, and students understand what you are talking about. But please do not attack a student with a blunt axe. Then the Chinese close and walk away.  The biggest difference between Western and Chinese organizations is that with the Chinese organization everything is hidden and with the Western organization everything is clear.

What came to your mind and what were you thinking when you were making the pieces? Have any of your previous works influenced the outcome of the piece that you created for 21 grams?
We all die, but we don't know when. Our lifespan is uncertain, but it also provides an intriguing tension. We can not imagine dying. Will we lose our soul in the process of dying?
Life and death is always one of the important aspects in my work, I am a romantic artist. The moment that a transition takes place from here to there, from life to death, is a painful thing. That very “last breath” is where everything stops, From warmth to cold, from life to death, this I wanted to capture in my 21 gram piece of jewelery. The piece that I made for te 21 gram exhibition has become a starting point for a new series of work called “SUCTUS”.

Last breath, Ruudt Peters, 2018, silver and glass.

The soul is an elusive form or a spiritual matter, how do you think the jewellers responded to having to put a physical form to this concept?
A very old friend of mine, she is 84 years old, warned me that not many artists would be able to make a work that capture the essence of the 21 gram theme. I am amazed at how the young generation of jewelry makers empathize with this theme and I feel that every time needs transcendental to survive.
At this moment I receive photos and concepts from artists all over the world. It is great to see how diverse artists give the mind of the soul its own interpretation aswel in form as in material. I am amazed how different generations shape this transcendental subject.

The soul is such a personal subject with many different viewpoints on it often depending on religion, upbringing ect, did you see any patterns in the outcomes from artists? Do you feel like there was a main focal point?
Contemporary art jewellery has to have a personal subject. When it is not personal, it loses there soul. For me a jewel has everything to do with religion upbringing, society and the personal situation of an artist, and for sure it shows the different between the east and western artists.

Soul. The Crackled Soul, Kadri Malk, 2018, Black tourmaline, silver, dark blue sapphires.

Did you learn anything that has particularly stuck out to you?
It is not charming to say but I have trouble with the form language of the Chinese works. How come? Because they have a totally different aesthetic, a different view of life wich is related to a visual language. I invest a lot in the understanding of Chinese jewellery.
Slowly I learn to appreciate their way of thinking, but I remain a Dutch cheese head.

What information are you trying to put into this travelling exhibition, what are you bringing to the worldwide audience? Do you have preconceived ideas on what people's attitudes should be? Or what you would like them to be?
Our current society has created an incredible volatility with the internet and social media. Grounding and related with the cosmos and the earth is something that’s losing content. We are no longer involved in another person, we no longer smell, lick or feel the person sitting in front of us, and we certainly will not see someone’s soul. I see love-couples having dinner with their mobiles in the hand and communicate with these mobiles to each other. I hope that this exhibition can touch a deeper layer of our existence and make it more tangible again.

If you could meet one person who’s no longer alive, who would it be? What would you ask her/him?
I would like to ask the already past away French writer Marguerite Yourcenar how it’s possible for a woman to step in the guise of the homosexual male Alexis , who write his wife about his sexual preferences.
And I would like to ask the still living writer Hanya Yanagihara who has just published a little life,  how she can move as a woman in the body of the gay Jude. Both artists show an unimaginable empathy and understanding of what life and death is.
For me Contemporary Art jewellery is “life” it has everthing in it. Its male /female, Its history and pain, its religion, suffering, emotions, love, erotism, sex. Everything what is live has to do with jewellery, or everthing of life find a way of expression in Jewellery. I love it, I hate it. Like I love and hate my life.

Translated by Charlot Claessens.

About the author

Yuxi Sun completed her Bachelor of Arts in Jewellery Design at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in 2015. She finshed her Master of Fine Arts in Gemstone and Jewellery at the University of Applied Science Trier, Campus Idar-Oberstein in 2018. Meanwhile, she has been interning at Klimt02 since 2017.

Grace Horler completed her training at the British Academy of jewellery in 2015. In 2018 she graduated with a Bachelor of Jewellery from Farnham UCA. Now, after her graduation, she has started working with Klimt02 as an intern. Meanwhile, she will continue creating her own jewellery.