Stone and Water
Notes on Ruudt Peters’ Azoth
Small, amorphous bodies cut in two and revealing an interior consisting of layer upon layer of multicoloured polyester round a hollow prism of black, oxidized silver. Ruudt Peters’ new works arouse our curiosity. What are these strange brooches? Are they images of the human body, cut in two and violated? Or are they symbols of an unknown life of the interior, hidden within a thick, foreign shell?
We receive a first indication of the sort of process that has led up to them in their name, Azoth. The word belongs to the vocabulary of alchemy, the art of making gold that was keenly practised by medieval mystics. Azoth is a word of many meanings that has been used to denote a secret elixir, the universal life force as well as fire, electricity and magnetism. It can denote the philosopher’s stone and the water of life that rises from a divine source. Like many esoteric concepts this one leads a life of its own, cleverly avoiding attempts to establish a definitive meaning. Its sense can be hidden, uncovered and re-interpreted as though it had no core, as though it was a shifting projection.
The association with alchemy leads us back to earlier work by Ruudt Peters. He belongs to a generation of jewellery makers who received their training during the 1970s and who, to a great extent, rejected the goldsmith’s traditional materials. When gold was finally introduced into his work it was in the form of an interest in the world of alchemy rather than in the metal itself.
Azoth’s references to alchemical processes is a recognizable feature from earlier thematic series by Ruudt Peters like Ouroboros (1994), Lapis (1997) and Iosis (2002). Alchemy appears here primarily as an investigation of the principle of changeability. At the centre is the material’s shifting character, from liquid to solid, soft to hard, porous to impermeable.
There are links between the materials’ metamorphosis and the artist’s own development. The creation and recreation of his identity has been a recurring point of reference in Ruudt Peters’ work. Once again the threads lead to alchemy where the transmutation of the material has the function of a portrayal or a projection of the alchemist’s spiritual development. The objects in the Azoth series comprise a closed geometrical form made of silver and dipped in liquid polyester. We recognize the materials from the metaphors of alchemy as stone and water, two extremes that are, perhaps, merely different stages of a single process. In Azoth the pieces have been cut in two. Everything lies open to the beholder. But is this not really a rather deceitful openness? We can look right in to the interior but we are not actually able to discover any secrets. As the interior is hidden, covered over and then brutally opened it assumes shifting identities but it always lets something within it remain unseen.
Interpreted in this way, the jewellery objects act as a defence for the individual's right to move between different contexts. It is a matter of being allowed to be contradictory and of uniting influences from different directions – of being hard stone and running water at one and the same time without having to explain why.