Pneuma - 2000

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Ruudt Peters Pneuma brooch

Pneuma 4, 2000, brooch, gold, polyester, 2.76 x 1.85 x 1.1 inches



Why jewelry today?


When the man lays out the jewels before me, they are like defenceless embryos. They look fragile, introverted and absorbed by their growth, something seems to pulsate quietly within them. Seven times two pairs are silently embedded on white cloth and we are in a laboratory. The test series consists of two times fourteen hermetic bodies and these allow an insight into the state of the research, cognition and investigation made by Ruudt Peters.


What is beauty?


"Pneuma" is the title of all these works, that, furthermore, are merely provided with consecutive figures. This title is a clue for the present object of his considerations. For years Peters has now been occupied not only with the sculptural problem of the mutual relations between volumes, for example between the body and the jewel, but also with the intellectual and alchemistic aspects of his self-imposed mission.


What is valuable?


For years Peters has used neither gold nor silver. Now, his jewels, that may be worn as brooches, are mainly composed of synthetic materials. Only the small attributes and ornaments, including sounding or antennary elements, attached to the polyester bodies are made of matted precious metals; gold and silver. The interior of these transparent objects in casting resin is ... empty.




"Pneuma" consists of covers, amorphous translucent cavities which result invariably from two interconnected form parts. In order to achieve this result, Peters in each case put together two stones - a masculine and a feminine - to form one body, the gender assignment of which is drawn from the crystal structure of the stones. Each of these created units was moulded twice, so duplicated once again. That is the way in which this exhibition's twins, that differ slightly from one another, were engendered.


The moulds were created by multiple dipping into casting resin. This can be inferred from the bead-like protuberances at the bottom ends of the pieces. The volumes are of a transparent, yellowish-milky colour resembling jelly, wax or even a fatty capsule. On their inner skin it is possible to discern sharp or even splintered crystalline structures, yet the exterior surfaces of the double bodies are softly rounded; the fingers touch silky, smooth synthetic material that rapidly takes on body heat. Whereas the interior structures can only be explored by the eye as through a thick layer of ice, the details of the exterior forms are made even by the layers of the synthetic resin.


These strikingly indeterminate forms are unknown, not easily legible to the eye and their material property irritates. Moreover, the volumes have the characteristic of a strange, artificial light, that gets entangled in their inside, penetrates the thick vitreous wall and seems to collect itself at their centre. Time and again this faint glimmer attracts the gaze to the interior, one tries to explore it and to fathom it. These Siamese twin forms of concrescence shelter a secret, quite obviously, a secret knowledge that knows how to be kept, maybe also knew how to protect. For these parchment coloured envelopes –places of origination- do also show some resemblance to empty insect cocoons. The protective cover is as much emphasised here as their inaccessible kernel. The only breach in the hermetic nature of this phenomenon is brought about by the graceful tools - little spoons, tiny funnels, small bowls, delicate rods - that rest on the thick-walled hollow bodies and push forward - through their envelopes - to the inside. At this point, the theme of the masculine and the feminine is taken up again in that each of the twins was respectively endowed with gold and silver metallic attributes: gold is considered as a solar symbol, which has a masculine connotation; silver symbolises the moon representing feminine power.


Jewelry is longing


This recent conceptual investigation on the theme of jewelry seems even to outdo the 1997 "Lapis" series. On the look-out for valid content Peters has moved still further away from the conventional, purely aesthetically based expectations and concentrates even more on psychological and philosophical reflection. Jewelry serves the purpose of raising the wearer above his naked being. Jewelry distinguishes, brings into prominence, is an external sign for a value, rooted within the wearer, for what people esteem, what they believe, what they long for. And by whatever means they try to get it: people long for perfection.


Completeness is beauty


Completeness is attained by my completion in the part I am lacking, that is exterior to me, that I am in need of and upon which, consequently, my longing is concentrated. At this point the hermaphrodite emerges as an archetype of this longing, and as regards the jewelrymaker's alchemistic considerations, it comes full circle. From time immemorial, the figure of the hermaphrodite, the half-male half-female being engendered by Hermes and Aphrodite, ranks among the visions of the salvation in alchemy. It is the end of yearning, of imperfection, of my renouncing the idea of being able to live in inner peace, in inner unity, the end of being split. Peters synthesises this "unity of the duality" by repeatedly uniting representations of the masculine and the feminine in two stones, and calling this artificial unity into existence in the cast.


Pneuma - spirit, wind, breath


This form then - image of the image of an ancient human dream - is again dematerialised: after the wax cast of the crystalline hybrid has been wrapped up in the hardened synthetic cover, the thus enclosed wax interior is liquefied by heating and drained off through a narrow conduit. What remains is a negative space in the centre of the individual works. The assertion of the existing completeness is retracted to the purely spiritual - "Pneuma". The model remains as a highly informative lead for our own contemplation, a place of spiritual concentration, the void is the open space we can fill in with own intellectual or spiritual models.


This sheltered open space provided the title for the works. Thus the non-material, spiritual as essence, as the actual quality and as the valuable is allocated to the centre of these jewels. In that context the Greek word pneuma stands both for the purely materially conceived vital power of breath and for the spirit of God. That is also the designation the alchemists gave to the layer of air that is immediately above the earth and is composed of its evaporations, the top part of which reaches the throne of the Gods.


Valuable is the inside


This empty, interior space, predetermined by the synthesis of the masculine and feminine principles, is, even if it allows an insight, protected, covered. Important - and precisely for that reason made of gold or silver - are the entrances, that are connected to the inside, through which one can exchange within it or which are means of diversion and emission. Important for us, who stand physically outside. That is why “Pneuma” is also an investigative series about the diffusion of energetic powers.


In this way the jewel becomes a relay for spiritual energy, a recollection place for spiritual potency, a birth-place of new aesthetic convictions. As in an x-ray, colours and usual external features were faded out in order to visualise internal coherence and processes. In a reliable balance between communication and sheltering, custody and dissemination, assertion and questioning, the phenomena arise, without them exempting us from the difficulty of interpreting them, thereby assuring a ‘sine qua non’ of art: the freedom of personal investigation.


Gabi Dewald Lorsch, December 1999


Translation: Clemens Arts, Brussels, January 2000

Ruudt Peters Pneuma brooch

Pneuma 2, 2000, brooch, silver, polyester, 2.32 x 1.65 x .98 inches

Ruudt Peters Pneuma brooch

Pneuma 4, 2000, brooch, silver, polyester, 2.76 x 1.6 x 1.1 inches


Beginning in the 1970's, Ruudt Peters, a pioneering Dutch conceptual jewellery artist, challenged traditional definitions of adornment by pushing the boundaries of context, wearability, materials and presentation. A leader in art jewellery in Holland, Peters exemplifies a mode of expression that is unmistakably Dutch.

He has exerted a strong influence on the development of contemporary jewellery as an artist and as a professor at some of the most prestigious universities in Europe, the Gerrit Rietveld Academie in Amsterdam and Konstfack University of Arts and Crafts in Stockholm, where he was teaching till 2009. At the moment Peters is professor at Alchimia Contemporary Jewellery school, Florence, Italy