Ramón Puig: the journey

A few years ago Ramón Puig sent me, by email, a publicity image. In the first plan a woman in a sophisticated and subtle black dress could be seen. In another plan, further away and less visible, a high quality automobile was shown. The slogan “I don’t use jewels, I drive them!” stood out.

From a semantic point of view, jewel has the same meaning as an adjective. Transferring to the automobile the social meanings usually given to jewels in the West, it qualified it as economically worthy, precious, sophisticated, capable of seducing and granting social status.
The adornment is closely related to the art of changing the body. The symbolic capacity it possesses to transmit messages cannot be reproduced by other means. Its use, distinct from biological necessities such as food or sexuality, cannot also be seen as a protective dimension of clothing. Adornments send, sometimes implicitly, messages that we do not express in any other form. Transforming the body states, revealing aspects of social relations, of belonging or difference, it can also be related (among other symbolic practices) to rituals, witchcraft, religion, delimitation of age, status and social distinction, aesthetics or seduction, revealing meanings and specificities of each social context. Adornments still have, like all symbols, a volitional force: causing to act, even if sometimes thoughtlessly, in a certain way.

Ana Campos, 2003

[Master Thesis resume]
 

 Adaptation and translation of the Master Thesis

Sky and Sea: Ramón Puig, actor in a new jewellery scenario

Porto, Portugal – Universidade Aberta, 2000.

To Gastão for your company and your understanding

 

Ackowledgements

Professor Doutor José Ribeiro, Fátima Nunes, Montse Jubete

and ESAD, Escola Superior de Artes e Design, Matosinhos, Portugal.

 

 

INDEX

Introduction: The adornment, the jewel and the construction of social meanings

Making the invisible visible                                                                                  

A hybrid mind

Origins and itineraries of the creative journey

In dialogue with the matter

The dynamics of ideas

The construction of a visual rhetoric

The creation, an act between alterities                                                              

 

 

 

Ramón Puig Cuyàs. 1990. Cel i mar. Brooch. Patinated alpaca, silver foil: 9×9 cm. Series Impressions de l’Atlàntida.

 

INTRODUCTION: The adornment, the jewel and the construction of social meanings

A few years ago Ramón Puig sent me, by email, a publicity image. In the first plan a woman in a sophisticated and subtle black dress could be seen. In another plan, further away and less visible, a high quality automobile was shown. The slogan “I don’t use jewels, I drive them!” stood out.

From a semantic point of view, jewel has the same meaning as an adjective. Transferring to the automobile the social meanings usually given to jewels in the West, it qualified it as economically worthy, precious, sophisticated, capable of seducing and granting social status.

Sending this message, Ramón reminded me once again of questions we had so many times talked about. Jewels, just like he comments, nowadays share, along with other objects and artefacts, the public display of economic values or, at times, combined, the display of status. The adornment and the jewel were artefacts frequently with metaphysical significance, which helped the individual to live, to fit into and to orientate himself in his social context. In the current material culture, the jewel is above all an image and a component to create the wearer public look, defending him from anonymity. However, despite globalisation we live in a multifaceted time. What is then, a jewel? It doesn’t seem appropriate to give it only one meaning, rather several, regarding producers (jewellers), social groups and users with different viewpoints, which coexist contemporaneously. Thus being so, how can a producer answer the vast emerging imaginaries?

Containing implicit the constant reflection of Ramón on the construction of meanings through adornments and jewels, questioning his own role and the users’, the mentioned publicity image outlined my motives to try to deepen my understanding and to describe his points of view in this matter, as constituent elements of his creative process.

The adornment is closely related to the art of changing the body. The symbolic capacity it possesses to transmit messages cannot be reproduced by other means. Its use, distinct from biological necessities such as food or sexuality, cannot also be seen as a protective dimension of clothing. Adornments send, sometimes implicitly, messages that we do not express in any other form. Transforming the body states, revealing aspects of social relations, of belonging or difference, it can also be related (among other symbolic practices) to rituals, witchcraft, religion, delimitation of age, status and social distinction, aesthetics or seduction, revealing meanings and specificities of each social context. Adornments still have, like all symbols, a volitional force: causing to act, even if sometimes thoughtlessly, in a certain way.[1]

Being, above all, related to the traditional societies, adornment is a general concept. It includes various ornaments, such as clothing details, hairdos, paintings, tattoos, body piercings and scarification. Changing according to its social context, it can be permanent or temporary and made from various materials.

The jewel, being an extension of this concept, has a meaning produced in the West and in other societies such as India, in the Mongol Period. With the exception of the religious and the civil and social distinction symbols, it is possible to observe that mainly in the West, from early on, the decorative meaning of the jewel was emphasised, depending on the context, as being related to ostentation, seduction or coquetry, both feminine and masculine. Configuratively speaking, and considering aesthetic references not very evolved, jewels have been corresponding to different beauty and aesthetic patterns. However, centuries ago, the consciousness of the metaphysical components associated with adornment was lost. By diluting its internal splendor, its efficiency field was reduced and its role as symbolic relational mediator was changed.

Within these bounds, the western cultural horizon is, still at the moment, limited by frontiers and expectations of a vision of the world, within which, to a jewel corresponds a code of economic values or status. Gold and stones have a notable presence, next to the preciousness of the details and particularity of the manufacture. In today’s dynamic world, where humanity admits and wishes, in general, changes, which are occurring in a quick pace in all sectors and activities, I notice, everyday that this cultural representation, built about jewellery, shows an aspect of the western imaginary world which seems frozen in time.

The logic of the meanings of the consumer society brought little that was new. In reality, it has notably contributed, to change or dilute particular cultural meanings, profound and symbolic, that each jewel had for the wearer. They became artefacts with no sentimental value as Ramón frequently notes. Like with many others which we live surrounded by, these are substituted, circulating in the global society, at the velocity of consumer goods. The designers, responding to values of various target public, frequently conditioned by the client’s briefing, follow or encourage wishes and human representations. In some cases, they create unique pieces or limited series of sophisticated and pompous jewellery ornamented with stones. In other cases, based on new technologies which allow the reproduction of several pieces, they introduce into the market silver and gold products with low economic values. Most of these jewels only bring configurative renovation keeping, however, identical meanings to those I referred to earlier. They are seen, just like fashion accessories, as momentary signs, emphasising, maybe seductively, a corporal detail.

Contemporaneously, on the threshold of the 21st century, western jewellery artefacts – high jewellery, consumables and fashion accessories – coexist. For different reasons, inclusion or reaction, they establish a relationship with the same logic of meanings that is fixed by conjugation of social values, emphasising economic aspects, status and fashion, once they correspond to an imaginary where their symbolic meanings, which each adornment had, is changed for the user.

Jewels, like some adornments, due to their symbolic capacity to transmit message fulfil a mimetic role. They contribute to the construction of an image with which each individual presents itself and fits into a certain social group. In today’s society, strongly dominated by image and a person’s public appearance, jewels are, like other artefacts – not only clothing, but so many others with which one creates and renovates the environment surrounding – components which, by reinforcing their meaning conjugated in a certain way, allow each user, by exceeding their free choice, to elaborate a design of its public image: its individual look. Despite the marked individuality, with the image created by and for itself, each individual shows that they are not free from society. There are always interactive actions, which include taste and aesthetic factors, dominant representation modes, social or group from which each individual selects and adopts jewels and other artefacts as a sign of belonging. The built look explains the individual consciousness in society. The same individual assumes the design of the different public images in its daily life and in the public celebration of a performance, through the creation of an artwork which always implies, simultaneously, its individual imagination and a symbolic opening to society. The appearance “is a call of witnesses; it expresses the wish of interchange”.[2] So when building a look, jewels continue to have a symbolic role. They are social mediators. They contribute to the acknowledgement of each individual’s identity, although they stand out, today, mainly in icons.

In answer to the emerging diversity of the imaginaries in the production’s point of view, other proposals appear. Similarly to what happened with the other arts in the West, since the beginning of the 20th century, new dynamics in jewellery arose.[3] Mainly after the 60’s, in an attitude profoundly related to that era’s ideology, several jewellers began introducing new materials into jewels which included – plastic, various metals, paper and many others.[4] In several European countries, USA, Australia, Japan, several jewellers built another scenario. It is here that Ramón fits in, although he doesn’t belong to the generation that represents the genesis of this orientation. These jewellers want, through the use of other rhetorics, to occupy new territories in a social space parallel to the traditional jewellery. They build plastic discourses related to another vision of the world. The intention which moves them is concentrated in the desire to rebuild the relational role of the jewel. They separate themselves from that vision of the world where the process of giving meaning to each jewel is fixed by relating public acknowledgement of the statutory roles, with economic values related to stones and gold used in the production of the jewels.[5] They also step away from fashion and prêt-a-porter. Demanding status of an author and wanting to create a new visual art, there are no market demands as there are for the designers. They base themselves on the perception they have of the world, showing it through poetic, speculative messages or frequently coded symbols. When they exhibit jewels, each spectator, as when a piece of art is observed, through a process of implication in the rhetoric of one of those artefacts, questions himself about the implicit message of that artefact, thus producing new meanings which come from his own interpretation. What happens is that because they coexist in the same context of the traditional jewellery, they cause, like I’ve had the opportunity to observe so many times, commotion in some spectators’ expectations. Thus, as surprisingly as it may seem, in the beginning of this millennium, the shock they caused is frequently identical to that caused by modern art, in the West, in the beginning of the 20th century.[6]

The human eyes are fabulous instruments which capture essential images for the brain. But in reality, being the mind that selects, summarises and relates them, allowing memorisation and interpretation, it occurs within certain boundaries. The human sight, as an element of semiotics, is conditioned by cultural units. For this reason it captures what is in its interest because it fits into a certain built visible world, with which the expression of ideas, phenomena, behaviours and several activities which, as they derive from the social form, led to the attribution of value to certain symbols or to the understanding that a certain exteriorisation is acceptable. Therefore in the western world, many spectators question themselves why Ramón’s jewels or the artworks of other jewellers from the same viewpoint, for various reasons, don’t fit into the horizon of expectations of many people. The spectators do this by relating what they perceive in those jewels with their imagination, with their vision of the world. But this awareness doesn’t make other social groups think differently, feeling the desire to change.[7]

In the jewellery scenario where Ramón fits into, like his own words reveal to me, there are expanding energies which translate the desire to intervene in society. These can be described as dynamic forces which tend to act “on the elasticity of perimeter-boundary-limit”. As the limit can transform itself into a barrier, this last concept can be defined as the “limit of values of a contour”. Two types of dynamics can be distinguished and they imply opposite actions: the limit and the excess. The action on the limit “is really the work of taking to the ultimate consequences the elasticity of the contour, but without destroying it”. Acting by excess is equivalent to breaking the limits by exceeding the contour, “after having broken it down. Crossed over: overcome through a gap”.[8] Ramón’s social representation and that of those jewellers who are included in this scenario, is equivalent to what was called “action on the limit”, which is dynamic because it produces innovation and expansion. They test the elasticity of the limits of social acceptability by introducing new dynamics, variations and alternatives, but they don’t destroy or exceed by breaking down, the contour of social values. They want to introduce change in the creative production and propose to the users new ways to understand and use jewels, by searching, in multiple ways, for the social acceptability of the artwork they create.[9]

Considering this perspective, certain over-dimensioned jewels or performances conceived in the 60’s and 70’s may seem excessive. An example can be the exhibition Objects to Wear in Eindhoven and London in 1969, or the performance of the group B.O.E (Bond van Obloerege Edeelmeden: jewellery in revolution) in Holland in 1976. This revolution was against the conception of these wearable objects that, due to its excessive dimensions, could hardly be used in one’s daily life. Actually these jewellers who so ostensibly provoked the image of the western jewellers, oppressed in an imaginary, which didn’t seem to accept variations or change, were looking for social acceptability through an action on the limit. The wanted to stimulate innovation, expand the way to understand and use jewels, by proposing alternatives to the western ideals, which they considered to be stationary and traditionalist. Due to the close contacts between jewellers of the various European countries, this attitude, almost revolutionary, spread and had continuity. They formed a relational net around the common vision of jewellery. It won’t certainly be a mere coincidence that it germinated in parallel to the students’ movements of the decade, which spread to other activities and social scenarios.

In the art field is not easy to give specific dates because changes don’t occur abruptly in time. However, approximately, until the beginning of the 80’s the creation of these jewels was intimately related to the materials themselves; these stressed the intention of provocation. Jewellers mixed, free and expressively, new brightly coloured materials (formica, acrylic and other plastic materials) with so many other existing (paper, wood, cloth) and also metals (aluminium, copper, brass, titanium) as well as a great variety of recycled materials. To distance themselves further still from this challenge to the elasticity of the limits, some combined these materials with gold, silver or stones.

These viewpoints grew, changed and spread throughout time.[10] Since the mid-80’s some generations of jewellers became successful and aware of their own identity as a whole. Challenging the limits of the western jewellery became a secondary intention.

An innovative action involves itself in a certain social and temporal context where variations and alternatives are introduced. After that, they will be completed by introducing other values in the social space being built, but they can, however, at some time, be overrun by other dynamics. So, these jewellers today don’t use performances that seem to want to break the counters of social acceptability. However, they don’t stop exerting action on the limit when proposing change when it comes to understanding and using jewels. But it is through creation and building plastic discourses that they produce innovation.

Outlined an introductory and interpretative panorama of the historiographical questions that made this jewellery orientation arise – focusing on the social effects jewellers want to produce and the articulation among themselves, sketching the causes or origins of their appearance – other doubts occur: what led Ramón to dedicate himself to jewellery by working with a substance made up of doubts and desire, curiosity and fear, uncertainty and persistence? What aspects of his personal and professional history show that he built a social eye and an artistic alterity,[11] with specificities, in this area of jewellery? Bearing these questions in mind I concentrated my observation and tried to understand, through dialogues I kept with Ramón, his creative process inscribed in the mentioned intercultural net of jewellers, in order to describe it

 

MAKING THE INVISIBLE VISIBLE

 

 Ramón Puig Cuyàs studio, 1999 – Vila Nova i la Geltrú.

“Making the invisible visible”, a phrase frequently used by Ramón, closes a series of questions which lead me to the genesis of his creative process. What group of components generates this complex and apparently mysterious action?

In the origin of the construction of meaning of a given art piece, there is always some type of interrelationship between the artist and the context in which he is in. By creating he calls to himself testimonies, expressing the desire of human interchange. He reveals, through its production, how he wants to interact socially. He accepts and illustrates facts in a mimetic way or acts upon social values like most of the artists after the transition into the 20th century, creating innovative dynamics or that of rupture.

Since my dialogues with Ramón, I understood, why he, through his work, intends to materialize the invisible. I observed empirically his behaviors, of a conscious nature, and explicit elements found in the jewels he conceives. I associated these elements with my perception, based on intersubjective implications, that by appearing in the dialogue we established, contributed to the growing understanding of the adjacent structures in his unconsciousness. Through his work Ramón reveals his imaginary and vision of the world, the cultural representations, that had their origins in the Mediterranean context in which he inscribes himself, reflecting and implying all that motivates him, the emotions and the desires. These aspects, restrictive and subjective, combine within themselves and express, in jewels, the characteristics of his built alterity as an artist and the way he wants to inscribe himself and his creative process, unique in the artistic scenario he adopted. He makes this interactive process visible and embedded in the jewels, just like gestual marks. None of these components, which contribute to his creative process, work by themselves, but converging in his mind, they combine themselves.

Some artists, exemplified below, have commented on their creative process through which a social self was built. In all, what stands out is how the social and temporal context they live in, interacts with their thought, their imagination and individual motivations. In certain cases what is most relevant is perception, as an element of motivation for creation. In others, images elaborated by the mind, which like the ones received from the visible world, are memorized. In some a critical sense and a strong will to intervene in social space are manifested. In others, auto reflexive attitudes combine themselves or are stressed.

Leonardo da Vinci worked upon the role of visual perception on the mind: “mathematicians do not want the eyes to have a spiritual power that is inherent to them because if that was so, there would be a big waste of power of vision; the eyes would be as big as the Earth, being able to consume themselves of observing the stars: that is why they claim the eyes receive but they don’t transmit anything”.[12] Others reflected about how the ideas arose and how they became visible. Frederico Zuccaro, questioning himself about the images formed in his mind, called the ideas “internal drawing” as opposed to “external drawing”, which was painting itself. Raphael, explaining how he developed his work, wrote a letter to Baldassare Castiglione: “I use a certain idea which comes to my spirit.”[13]

The research which preceded creation, whether of mental references or of the visible world was a widely diffused process among modern artists towards the end of the 20th century. Kandinsky, searching for references for his work, reflected upon what designated interior self, questioned himself on the plurality of the elements that define I as a mixed, transitory and ephemeral reality.[14] Those who, in Kandinsky’s contemporaneous context, were looking to find visible elements in the world in constant change due to the advance in technology, disagreed just like Picasso commented: “the spirit of research poisoned those who didn’t understand the positive and conclusive elements of modern art and tried to make them paint the invisible and consequently that which cannot be painted.” [15]

Ernesto de Sousa, in the 1970’s, a time when aesthetic, social and political questions were raised by the artists, proposed that the creative act went back to “semantic zero”, defending rupture, liberty and “the definite fall of the icons”, wanting “the mutation of aesthetic into ethic; definition of the future freedom – utopian, as within reach of all present actions. Identification of art with Life.”[16]

The postmodernists manifested themselves differently in various scenarios. In social sciences, literature, arts, what unites them is wanting to mark a division, distancing themselves from the recent past, mainly from the beginning of the 20th century, without wanting to, nevertheless, proclaim hope for novelty or anticipation for any eventual future. In architecture and design, this orientation was evident in the symbolic Bienal de Veneza of 1980, with the significant double title “The present of the past” and “End of the prohibition”, and, particularly in the scenographic exhibition “Strada Novissima”, commissioned by Paoblo Portoghesi.[17] It was manifested a rebellion against the principles of the Modernist Movements, its functionalism and rationalism.

Contemporaneously, other artists, like Ramón, don’t mark any rupture with the historical heritage, whether it is a recent or remote past. They act according to an overmodern thinking, questioning themselves about the consequences of the super dimensioning of typical modern factors nowadays.[18] Reflecting upon the memory of Humanity, they look to find foundations to introduce new creative dynamics into the present context. They work the memory and reuse it, changing it into a matter that, together with what they observe in today’s world and in human dynamics, they use to build projects. Considering this point of view, Ramón understands that in order to face changes that occur, quickly, with globalization, it is necessary that we convert ourselves “into memory nomads (…)” re-establishing “a new humanism that illuminates us to go through new paths of change” (Puig, 2001)[19]

Ramón Puig, 1989. Silver, Acrylic painting

 

A hybrid mind

Hybridism[20] has always been related to the idea of travel, meetings and human contacts. Far from being merely biological, it reflects itself on the mind, on the language, on the materialization of the imaginary, and also on various human practices, being a generator of multiple intercultural forms. In all these aspects the unexpected is always created; it’s a future promise. Each situation that is observed has, in the daily practices, its own particular characteristics, the reasons for its existence, its own dynamic.

All hybrid thoughts mediate between, at least, two visions of the world, showing tensions or temporary resolutions between two territories where, neither anything is definite, nor better than another. If the identity is never unchangeable, but something that is progressively built based on cultural contexts in constant movement, each individual, when the mental disposition is hybrid, can live in a permanent state of question, as it can capacitate them to confront, criticize and take advantage of elements from both sides, thus activating different facets, simultaneously or progressively, according to the interactions lived and to their own personal history. A porous boundary is constantly trespassed from one side to the other. For each individual, the identification with each one of those worldly visions is almost as important as the relationship they want to establish between both. Not clearly meaning belonging, it also doesn’t mean alterity, but rather an interwoven identity and alterity. That is: It causes a double process, feelings which tend to associate and try to disentangle.[21]

Today we see, in parallel to globalization, a crisis in the attribution of meanings to symbols and institutions, as a consequence of the acceleration of history, the reduction of space, the individualization of the itineraries and destinations.[22] The large quantity of information that each individual receives, through the various means of communication, leads to virtual journeys, contributing, just like a real journey, to the creation of contacts and new worldly visions. There is a new symbolic textile being woven, where “it is obvious that the composite character of all cultures creates alternatives to the domination rhetorics”.[23] By opposing total homogeneity and heterogeneous fragmentation, hybridism presents itself today as a new form of dialogue capable of developing social cohesion.

The net of contacts established centuries ago throughout the Mediterranean bay originated a composite culture from which are frequently quoted numerous cases of hybridism. Dialogues between ways of thinking and doing, imaginaries and visions of the world, beliefs and religions and between various practical reasons, made it possible, still today, to observe hybridism in architecture and mobile artifacts and also in the way materials or building and production techniques are mixed. Food itself is also an important proof.

Ramón clearly shows an intense affective relationship with the Mediterranean world which generated feelings of belonging. For this reason in his work, reflexive traveling gives continuity to his long historic heritage and to this way of hybrid thinking, as if he took a journey through the memories of places, legends and myths, that have been built around this sea that time and men made symbolic. Fragments of this composite culture which he quotes, reanimating and daily observing by the sea, together make up the pallet with which he creates jewels.

For Ramón’s creative process, which joins in dialogue arts that express the way of thinking and doing of two cultural scenarios – plastic arts and jewelry – other remote reasons meet. Remounting to Quattrocento Florentino, the separation between speculative arts and workmanship, appearing within what then became known as architecture, gave birth to a social division of work, giving rise to a singular artist that conceives and that of the artisans that carry out the manual work in the building yard. In the transition into the 20th century, a project with new social characteristics arose. It proposed the union of the arts following John Ruskin and later on William Morris’ plans. This was known as the “arts and crafts” dialogue, which would reflect itself throughout several European cities. Among them, Barcelona had great prominence as can be seen for instance in Gaudi’s work. Consequently in this Catalan city in 1903 Encouragement for the Decorative Arts was institutionalized. This movement grew and, today, artists from all areas endow the city with strong, symbolic capital and international recognition. It was in this spirit of dialogue, generator of an effective fusion of the arts, that the Massana School was born, where Ramón studied and is now a professor.

Therefore the construction of Ramón’s work, inscribed in a new jewelry’s scenario is supported by his imaginings, perception and interpretation of today’s world but also by the symbolic inheritances with which he interacts. The hybrid thinking rooted itself because it usufructed from an artistic initiation which established the dialogue between thinking, doing and acting, typical of the plastic and applied arts scenario. It aimed at the creation of jewels that by expressing its character as author would be the bearer of speculative and poetic contents, just like in the plastic arts. It included specific jewelry techniques related to artisan handwork, inherent to the applied arts. For Ramón none of these instigating elements of creation prevails. He uses artisan processes – today replaced by the overvalorization of sophisticated technological means – associating them to theoretical knowledge related to the plastic arts. He combines them in an expressive dialogue where the vitality reflected in each jewel comes from his ability to transform and criticize both his plastic and applied arts inheritances.

Today, in a time that is clearly polyphonic, by opposing to a dominant rhetoric when he shows his option for dialogues, he reveals attitudes which represent the assumption of a humanist role. Because he is positioned in a penetrable boundary line which he constantly crosses, it is not possible to include his work in a dominated aesthetic orientation. It is only possible to include it in the net in which it is inscribed, where many other jewelers use hybrid expressions. Speculating and causing the interaction of artistic processes, Ramón introduces a creative dynamic, which represents his contribution to the invention of a new scenario in the visual arts where jewelers of the same viewpoint are social actors.

In all of Ramón’s jewels, it is clear that his hybrid thoughts created a hybrid aesthetic. For instance the brooch Cel i Mar (Sky and Sea) of 1990 – page 4 – is, at a first glance, a painting. The name that the author gave it is related to the meaning of the metaphoric message implied. It is possible to see symbolic representations where the order of the elements, which would seem natural, was changed. He integrated them in a composition based on multiplicity. Poetically, revealing elements of his subjective universe, he represented the moon, stars and other planets simultaneously and practically on the same plan; set on a blue background with which he evokes the sea with waves and the sky, he connected the imaginary linear trajectories of those stars, making them visible. These radii formed with the trajectories reveal the sketch of a sun. By using the discursive strategies which he, as author, adopted – conjugating quotations, joining fragments, creating association and expressing himself through metaphors – he gave Cel i Mar a plastic and poetic expression.

Simultaneously and in an intimate dialogue during production, he uses processes connected to the artisan know how. Through interpretation and recreation he also speculates about these processes, thus marking his inventive character. By making them expressive, just like some plastic artists would do, he distances himself from the rigidness and preciosity of the manufacture traditionally connected to western jewelry. Through the use of artisan techniques, he welds metals. In Cel i Mar, the sea and the sky were made from brass, the trajectories and stars from alpaca. Then, once again proceeding as an author, he highlighted the expression of the shapes. He oxidized the brass making it a bluish green and on the surface he created a visual texture; he covered the stars with a plate of silver to make them more luminous; in the linear trajectories, just like in some of the stars, he kept the marks left be the hammer visible – like many jewelers had, previously or in other societies, done – and he did the same thing with the waves which show the sawing movement, advancing in a spiral.

 Ramón Puig Cuyàs, Brooch, 1981. Silver, plastic, steel, paper, polyester resin.

 

 Ramón Puig Cuyàs. 1991. Sirena y Diosa. Patinated alpaca and coper. 12x4x1 cm / 11x7x1 cm. Series Impressions de l’Atlàntida.

Ramón Puig Cuyàs. 1991. Broche. Alpac   Patinated alpaca and silver foil. 6×2 cm. Series Impressions de l’Atlàntida.

Ramón Puig Cuyàs. 1991. L’Illa. Brooch. Patinated alpaca, and silver foil. 7×4,5 cm. Serie Impressions de l’Atlàntida.

Ramón Puig Cuyàs. 1991. La mirada de la medusa. Brooch. Patinated alpaca, and silver foil. 7×7,5 cm. Serie Impressions de l’Atlàntida.

 

Ramón Puig Cuyàs. 1998. L’explorador. Brooch. Silver, alpaca, glass, coral, laquer and wood. 9x8x2 cm.

Ramón Puig Cuyàs. 1998. El reliquiari. Brooch. Wood, alpaca, silver and glass. 7x7x1,5 cm.

 

Origins and itineraries of the creative journey

The motivation of the imagination, manifested or merely suggested, plays an important part in the comprehension of the artist’s work, once they reveal subjectivity. Ramón’s inventiveness is sustained by the memory and by a particularly attentive and detailed look that interact as instruments of knowledge and as impulses to create. Memory is a mental support he reuses to build his work. The attentive look makes him see, re-examine, relive and reflect upon the world that surrounds him. Among the representations elaborated by his mind and the images of the world, he selects starting points to create.

The Mediterranean culture, as a strong motivator, becomes an impulse to act, create jewels and at the same time, to show the way he relates to the surrounding society. As he emerges in the universe of belonging, he seems to develop a terrain experience, just like an anthropologist. He starts with the intuitive observation of the world, seeming to read his culture as a text. Concentrating attentively his eyes in details, he looks to understand rituals, human interactions and themes represented in symbolic artifacts. This immersion of the artist demonstrates interest and affection for the society in which he has always lived and the intention to communicate it publicly through his work.

By looking at himself in order to understand his own behavior, his creative alterity in construction, deciding what he wants to reveal, he adopts a reflexive attitude. Intuition and doubts, conscience and criticism, follow him in the discovery. He considers the creative process a learning process which he admits to share but only after he has interiorized it, after a course which implies discovering himself within himself, stripping himself in order to find himself once again. He always questions himself on how to express his messages and share his work socially. Ramón acts demonstrating a perception clearly orientated to a social perspective. He is conscious that the meaning of his work is fulfilled socially but only when it is received and interpreted by the receptors. Each jewel can, based on the vision of the world of whoever sees it, acquire different meanings.

If his creative method always seems to bring him closer to anthropology, it is due to, in part, the interest that he has in this particular science. However, his purpose is not to produce knowledge about the Mediterranean culture. The exploration of this field is the starting point to reanimate traditions to which he involves and adds humor, joy, color, emotion, fiction, poetry, and aesthetic beliefs. It is a motivation to introduce change in jewelry, to question himself about adornment as a symbolic relational mediator. The creation of jewels is part of a project associated to his daily life: it led to the construction of an alterity as an artist, which represents his social and professional identity inscribed in the jewelry’s orientation which he has chosen. In each jewel his fictional way of thinking is revealed. Through invention, he creates mysteries around his daily life and around the subjective reason which have lead him to transform certain ideas into images that come from fragments of memories, perception and mental images.

The sea, which has always had a constant presence in his life, is of great importance in his jewels. Using quotations, he represents it inhabited by fish, jellyfish, sea stars and so many other animals with colors that only exist in his imagination; he associates them metaphorically with dual figures, the sky, in the day or at night, with stars and other planets. When his imagination leaves searching for memories of social traditions – some of which he has observed since childhood – he recalls Christian religious rituals, associating them with other pagan rituals of fertility, agriculture or of the sea. Sometimes he evokes and reanimates, with joy and color, the bullfighter. Other times he recalls explorers of the sea, just like he imagined them as a child. Other times still, by searching for a remoter past surrounded by a mist of legends, he revives anthropomorphic beings, changing them into fictitious inhabitants of the sea, or Greek-Latin mythological figures that feed so many hybrid thoughts.[24] Most representations are related to the Mediterranean world. For this reason he dedicates a series of jewels to Atlantis. This myth, reanimated by Ramón, having been transmitted by Plato, filtered into the imaginings of this composite culture, emphasizing itself and keeping its presence alive. It can be considered that “the expression Jazirat-al-Andaluz, the Al Andaluz island (Andaluz Island) – today known as the Iberian Peninsula – used by classic Arab texts, is merely the translation – an adaptation of Atlantic Island or Atlantis”.[25] All these visual elements are components which contribute to the construction of a meaning embedded in metaphors. It conjugates with a reflection, which being eminently social, involves myths and legends, past and present of humanity, just like Ramón explains:

“For me at least, the way to find a meaning in jewelry, is by trying to find it in its origin, to find it in those bonds between jewel and man, its function, and its new functions in an absolutely industrial culture as is ours, but looking for them in the reason for which the first man began choosing a stone or tattooing himself”.

Concentrating on the role of the adornment, in his and in other societies, in the present and in the past, he reflects upon the reasons why jewels have lost metaphysical meanings. Just like other artifacts produced within the bounds of today’s material world, in constant change, they reflect individualism. He questions himself about the industrial cloning of artifacts that, by being designed for mass production and directed to a globalised economic scenario, are positioned in the middle of the seduction/discarded dialect.

Ramón elaborates, in the context in which he inscribes himself, a mental representation on artifacts whose themes are connected to symbolic acts or beliefs of other times and societies. Focusing on the values, this representation has an emotional character, making it simultaneously expressive and representative of a practical reason to act. Therefore he recreates amulets, ex- vows and reliquaries. By reinventing them he creates jewels he calls “orientation objects”. Wanting with these to invent metaphoric artifices for a so-called defense in life’s journey, frequently establishing relationships of similar semantics, he introduces in the jewels sea orientation instruments such as maps, stars and many others.

These symbolic and relational artifacts, that had a transcendental, religious or emotional character, united each individual to something he believed in. Representing the spiritual identity, even if it stayed in the intimacy, hidden when transported close to the body, they could always – if they became public – be socially understood for they represented common values. In this artist’s jewels they became coded symbols, mysterious, polysemous, constituting a challenge to the interpretation of those who observe each jewel. Simultaneously they allow the assumption of reasons of his reflexive transhumance through the memory of symbolic roles of the adornment in other contexts. Being poetic strategies, they also represent a humanist proposal: explore the paths that, by illuminating man, might create alternatives to face the multiple changes that we see in the world nowadays. Ramón wants to rediscover “lost traces of the imaginary which are necessary to preserve and reencounter”.[26] Through its comprehension, he will reuse them by integrating them in the construction of projects.

Through observation of the artwork produced, and mainly long dialogues, I was able to understand other factors that complement the meaning which Ramón gives to acts of making the invisible visible:

“For me the act of creating is like an adventure, it’s like a journey. I became aware of this after many years of working. I mean, deep down it’s a way of wanting to see and this way to penetrate a little more into the environmental context, making that act of creation a journey, an exploration journey, where you know exactly your starting point but you don’t know where you are going, but intuitively you know there is something interesting to find, beyond that line of the horizon. There is nothing more suggestive than imaging there could be something more beyond the horizon of the sea of the mountains. What there is beyond.”

For Ramón the meaning of the word journey is connected to the curiosity to know more, to explore, to find, adventure. Sometimes he associates it to the creative act itself, like in the fragment of text where he shows that traveling is a way of looking, penetrating into the surrounding world, waiting, with curiosity, for the unexpected and the surprise. Other times he is interrelated with reflexivity. He mentions it then as a journey inside, necessary to get to know himself and the relation of his work to symbolic social aspects, or to understand his own experiences. At other times still, he give the journey a shape, just like in some jewels, where he highlights the idea within the image with the name he gives it. For example: El explorador, (The explorer), Sempre cap el sur, (Always heading south), El Naufragi, (The shipwreck). On the whole, this imaginary journey is the dream, the myth, the creation. The look he wants to discover also shows the importance of the reception of the images through perception. His artwork reflects attention on what surrounds him, through a selective look that is attracted and then concentrates itself on certain elements with which he will become involved when creating. He observes in his local surroundings and safe keeps what he perceives in his memory archive. He constantly renovates it through the daily presence of the sea and the sky in front of his house, just like the memory is alive and constantly acts as a motivation to create. It is a constant recharge of productive energy. The images he sees combine directly with others that the mind elaborates. What is retained by the memory from both generates his work, which doesn’t mean the shapes/forms are copies of what he evokes, rather they are constructions and metaphors where the imagination flows in. Ramón establishes a connection between the visible world where he concentrates himself and the marks of creative experiences and symbolic acts of other societies which have lived in the same place.

“Creation is an action that takes place in the present. It is like building the future in the present but using the memory of the past. The memory, like the experience, is related to a cultural context, that is clear. I live in a place – Ampurdà – that is one of the first places in the Peninsula where the Greek and the Romans established themselves, where nature was domesticated, humanized, harmonized between human nature and activity. We can smell, feel the traces of the Mediterranean culture. The sea, the color, the pine trees, the rocks, the mountains, the horizon, is still the same. So, we can feel there is something in common between what we do and what other men have done before, other creators, other people.”

He wishes to give continuity to what humanity before him started. He renovates and recreates starting from cultural symbolic itineraries, memories, experiences and creative acts of other Mediterranean societies. Sometimes, reflecting, he substitutes the mental revisitation for a metaphor, saying that when working he goes in a circle in order to find past and primordial meanings of the adornment.

Through his work he establishes a connection with the emotion and childhood dreams. Sometimes he talks about those images of his memory as if they now were a mere tale. Some years ago I heard him say that as a child he used to spend endless hours, staring at the sea, just like he does today. He dreamt of becoming a sailor and discovering what was beyond the horizon, he imagined how to discover islands, and the geography of the Earth. At night he contemplated the sky as a macro world, he observed the stars and the moon, heard the silence, imagining he might, someday, become an astronomer. He also thought that observing life in the micro world of biology might be another alternative. I reminded him of these experiences and memories which lead him to the poetic universe, to the adventure of creation.

“That relationship with the sea that you talk abut began when I was very small. I wanted to be a sailor and spent hours staring, just like I do now, through the window imagining what’s beyond the horizon, that is part of that primordial necessity to invent, to see what’s a bit further away. Deep down my pieces are fruit of the observation, depth, and discovery, of going beyond the horizon of knowledge. The act of creation is like a journey which takes you to a wonderful, unknown island or a mysterious town. As you create your own work, it converts itself into a universe of dreams, desires.”

By using metaphoric associations and establishing an identical relationship between memory and daily observation, he reveals how he wants to maintain them inseparable in his mind. He quotes them together. Evidently not all jewels refer to his childhood, so similar to the one he sees today through the windows of his home or to what he imagines has been the life of other people in that same place. Others lead me to the comprehension of other elements which proves the relevance of his historic heritage. Miro’s paintings and sculptures are implicitly present in his work. The jewels of the 80’s bring to mind the paintings of that artist, the graphisms, the free and fantastic spots, full of joy and color. The jewels from the Impressions de l’Atlantida (Impressions of Atlantis) series remind me of the sculptures. In them I see metaphors and symbolic representations with similar configurations, such as textures and the greenish color of oxidation. My interpretation didn’t come as a complete surprise to Ramón, who associates the affinity to the perception.

“Many people said Miro was like a big child. There are people who have said that my work seems a bit like Miró’s. Yes, of course, we’ve lived in the fields, same lands, we’ve smelt the same things, had the same experiences, seen the same sundowns, the same mornings, the smooth sea and the light.”

I would say it isn’t just the vision of both of the same natural world. There is something else that Ramón seems to have seen in Miró, retaining an image which surely is not a copy but an interpretation. I’m referring to the primitivism of the plastic expression they adopted, and also to the way they dedicate themselves to the creative act, to the dialogue with the matter. Both artists’ work hints at spontaneous gestures, looking like the creative act had no previous studies. In this spontaneity lies an equivalent coincidence to something André Breton wrote: “maybe there’s nothing more in Joan Miró than a desire, the desire to give himself up to painting and just to painting”.[27]

In other jewels, Ramón unveils that when creating, he uses images, which he has mentally elaborated about the symbolic act, which repeats itself restoring the artesian work. Ramón likes to watch not only jewelers, but also fishermen who fix the nets or others who do different tasks on the harbor in front of his house. When he makes jewels he wants to give them those same gestures continuity. The entire construction of his work is related to the revitalization of feelings of belonging. The visual representations, the themes, the names given to the jewels, mirror the constant presence of the Mediterranean world in his thoughts, revealing the consistency of the motivating figure of his imagination and consequently his subjectivity. Quoting fragments of this intense relationship of identity, interpreting the past and present of this multifaceted culture, shows us elements that mark mostly the difference in Ramón’s work in jewelry. But the universe of Ramón’s belonging is not restricted to the place where he was born and lives. Nor to the myths that captured him or to the dynamic of social and urban transformations he sees today. Nor to the artists who preceded and motivate him. They seep out of him.

Ramón’s creative journey inscribes itself in a new scenario of jewelry where many other jewelers are connected to, producing in a large number of countries. Thus, the content, expression, color, the pictorial or sculptural references which he adopts, recalling the place where he was born and lives, has a Mediterranean taste. The significant matters (materials, techniques and the way he works them), and also the reflection upon adornment and the jewel as relational mediators, constitute together a challenge for the traditional and western jewelry, they also represent a symbolic tie of belonging to that intercultural net of jewelers. Therefore their creative process develops like a synecdoche game, between various quoted fragments, coming from motivations related to feelings of local belonging and shares or challenges coming from this broader context.

This group of jewelers, actuality a net, keep multiple contacts where various generations of beginners are implied, through workshops in schools or in other places and also, exhibitions, seminars and publications. At the poles of the net in the North and South of Europe (for example) there are different expressions and creative processes. They show, in the jewels, memories of places, ways of thinking, doing and prefiguring projects inherent to each context of origin. The interchange of these differences, constituting a challenge for the jewelers, present themselves, simultaneously, as an impulse for each one to act because, by constantly introducing themes to debate, they create dynamics in the relations of this group and this is reflected in the production of jewels

The identity, always having a variable geometry, being built from human interactions, is comparable to a journey. It changes “according to the itinerary followed”.[28] As the traveler continues, he makes discoveries and options. So, both the professional education and Ramón’s involvement in Massana School are included in his journey, as part of his identity and personal history.

He wasn’t born into a family of jewelers. He chose jewelry because he felt, since early on, attracted to those small artifacts that are jewels. As he frequently refers, sculpture, architecture or other arts are volumetrical, just like jewels. But the appeal these have on him is their reduced dimension and the vastness of messages each jewel can possess, allowing for the exteriorization of the artist’s thoughts like in those other arts. Thus, he went to Massana School beginning his education in 1969.

He began here his activity as a teacher in 1977, assuming the coordination of the Jewelry Department in 1981. My perception of his role in this institution, because I was his student, works as an experience which allows me to understand his performance better. At Massana, his symbolic power is clearly exteriorized, despite some degree of shyness. Without imposing himself, keeping his usual tranquility and always available to hear all (students, teachers and board of the institution) he observes all, even what is beyond the project class of jewelry which he teaches. His presence is attentive and serene, sometimes ironic. He is the center of all that happens in the Department of Jewelry and from whom all members hope to hear opinions on how to act. He exerts a subtle domination which is broader than the area he coordinates.

In classes he continues his creative work. The experiences and his involvement are reflected on his own work. He encourages the students to discover, he proposes that in order to create they turn to their imagination, to their context of belonging and to the dynamics which are inherent, filling them with enthusiasm in the matter. The experimentation he incites gives birth to multiple individual expressions and an exchange of ways to see, think and configure ideas between students from many countries. All develop the perception that the jewel expresses the author’s messages; not illustrating the imagination but communicating through metaphors that the wearer will interpret. Massana, a severe looking building which was a medieval hospital became a welcoming school with the involvement in the projects. Whoever studied there is always attracted back, the years pass and the students stay in Barcelona and return assiduously to project classes and various workshops. Isn’t that similar to what I’m doing, looking for the reason why, in this very place, I built a certain vision of the jewelry about which I intend to question myself? After classes and all his activities Ramón returns home. Turning the corner of Hospital Street he catches the subway on the Ramblas; he goes from Liceu to Passeig de Gracia where he catches the train home, in Vila Nova i la Geltrù, which is located about 40 kilometers south of Barcelona. He tells me that once again he takes the time to read. Truthfully that is what he did the last time I traveled with him, he concentrated and read one of the chapters of this text which I had finished by then.

Ramón Puig Cuyàs and students, 1998, Massana School, Barcelona.

Ramón Puig Cuyàs. 1986 Brooch. Silver, plastic and acrylic painting.

 

In dialogue with the matter

Ramón’s studio is a room in his house. There is always on his worktable a vast group of fragments of materials with a diversity of colors and forms. Some he made, some he found, some he kept away in boxes, but many are scattered on the table, together with the glues and cutting instruments. It seems as though only he knows where to find what he needs. But that isn’t so because his sons – Artur and Teo, still very young – when they walk into the studio they know where to find what they want to do their own experiments. When Ramón finishes a piece, they make their comments: “This came out really good, it looks like a toy!” – said Artur. Beside this table is the jeweler’s workbench and various tools to saw, file, cut and weld and so on. On the walls there are drawings, materials, finished pieces and fragments of pieces, drawings made by his sons and Silvia Walz’s works, his wife, who is also a jeweler.

From the big window of his studio you can see the sea only a few meters away. It is possible to hear the sounds of the boats and the people who work on the harbor. Throughout the entire house there’s a wrapping contact with the light of the Mediterranean sky. When night falls, leaving the moon and the stars to be seen, in the silence, the boats in the distance can only be recognized by the small, faraway lights which move in the sea. Daily life mixes in the studio with fragments of dreams, memories, emotions. It is here that Ramón, when he isolates himself from everyone, travels metaphorically, making his discoveries.

The purpose of a creative act is to build a meaning which will become relational – and therefore social – in the reception act by actors who observe and interpret the artwork. I will concentrate now on the first stage: the operative process which takes place in the intimacy of the author’s studio.

Certain behaviors in the act of creation are associated to the thought and imagination. Considering that I was allowed to observe until today (watching artists work and listening to them comment on how they proceed) I think I can say that there is an agreement between certain behavior characteristics and the way each one approaches the creative act. In the workplace each artist adopts a process – an operative way of doing – to change and interpret the matter when wanting to convert ideas into visible messages.

Some artists linger over previous studies and sketches, where they register ideas and different phases of the evolution of thought until the forms correspond to what they want and can, finally, be materialized. In this process they sketch and elaborate three-dimensional models by using easy to use materials which allow them to register their thoughts in action and to configure the ideas into the chosen support. They finish this phase when they figure they have decided which of the solutions will become final.

Others, using a completely different process, just use the final chosen material and they register there their thoughts. Sometimes it is a kind of battle with the material for they make decisions as they continue their work. They discover, in dialogue with the matter how they want to continue. In some cases, if the work doesn’t express what they want satisfactorily, they reject it and reinitiate the entire process. In the mean time they leave in the matter gestual, expressive and emotional marks. Thus, thoughts conjugated with different behaviors leads to expressing the imagination differently. The final result is visibly distinct in each case. However, there certainly aren’t pure or unique types of behavior, rather facets which tend to be more highlighted in each artist. The option also depends on the specific activity in which each is involved, within a certain artistic scenario. By quoting extracts of my dialogue with Ramón, I will be able to show more clearly what, in his case, the act of putting his ideas into images implies:

“I don’t know if the ideas come before or after. I think they come after the work, after the creation. Before I don’t have ideas, what I have are doubts, non-defined intuitions. Sometimes this intuition takes shape, like a visible form, like an internal drawing and I try to materialize it. But, very often, there is no clear idea, and then, it is more difficult because I’m even more lost and the work can become a battle with the matter. Other times no, that internal idea is a lot clearer and the work becomes more coherent, the ideas occur spontaneously. ”

When he comments that the ideas come after creating the piece, preceded by doubts, he clearly shows how he processes the creative act. By reflecting, he elaborates a project which he intends to materialize later on; he invests all his energy, working on the definition of the idea, gathering intuitive and cognitive elements, the imagination and emotion to find the key – the solution – for what he wants to express. The mental elaboration follows a path of discovery – it’s a journey – until finally, seeming to find a light, he defines the final solution. Ramón’s last testimony reveals the complexity of the inventive act, whatever the operative process chosen by each artist to meet an end, making an idea visible. This quotation reveals that when he doesn’t have an idea which comes from a mentally elaborated image, indicating clearly what to do, the work becomes more difficult. I suppose that sometimes the mental images gain an almost real configuration. Certainly he associates them with images of the perception which he has memorized and interprets them.

Finally, the materialized idea helps to understand, retrospectively, and sometimes clearly, the production process. The spontaneity of most of Ramón’s jewels demonstrates that he prefers to establish a direct dialogue with the matter, making decisions on the workbench, in a lonely discovery act in his studio. By quoting memorized and perceived fragments, he transforms them into fragments of matter. By conjoining them, he gives them the intended meaning. He creates compositions with elements which coexist simultaneously in his mind; by mentioning them, he makes them alive, emotive, expressive and of a Mediterranean nature, with marks of gestures embedded in the matter.

“It is a dialogue between the mind, the hand and the matter. An action-reply, reply -action is produced in time. It is a temporal act. The act of touching the materials – the action – facilitates the emersion of a wish, very often badly or not even yet formulated. Only through the direct work with the hands will you discover it.”

By associating fragments, he transforms metals and various other materials into configurations full of colors and textures; combining them he creates lines, structures, open and close spaces, rhythms that he compares to musical compositions. The parallel between the plastic arts and music, implicit in the precedent extract which expresses his voice, is also related to the dialogue with the matter. As he reflects upon this, he considers he develops the creative act by following a trajectory, which is not linear, but on the other hand, includes forward and backward movements, surprises of his metaphoric journey between the mind, the hand and the matter. He understands that the dialogue with the materials is during creation, an act which develops in time. For this reason, he comments that although usually plastic arts and space are related, for him, as creator of the jewel, it is a temporal act just like music. In the act of inventing, there is the surprise of the discovery as he dialogues with the matter, and the forms, which will reflect an idea, will gradually arise. It is adventure time, time of questioning, discovering, creating, joining materials, separating them, doubting, welding, experimenting, gluing, watching, deciding, choosing forms, colors, textures, rethinking, to see something that will become visible arise. Ramón goes on to explain:

“I look for techniques which allow me to work spontaneously, quickly and directly because in this type of creation, one has to be concentrated. However, for me it is not possible to be concentrated for weeks doing one piece; I can concentrate several hours. So one has to use those techniques that on one hand are very elementary, primitive, that come close to that primordial way, through which each person could make their own ornament, but that also allow agile and quick work, and establish a connection between intuition and materialization as quickly as possible.”

Ramón uses the words primitive and elementary for several reasons. Sometimes it relates to his will to find lost traces of the imaginary. He questions himself about relational and identity meanings of the adornments of traditional societies, hoping to find answers in the reasons why man tattooed himself or saved a stone with which he established a metaphysical connection. He wants to reinvent those meanings. By transporting this mental representation onto his work, he not only recreates symbolic artifacts but also gives the materials a primitive expression in order to, this way, highlight its significance. Sometimes, meaning the same things, he says he uses intentionally careless techniques; he emphasizes the reflexive movement and the symbolic intention through that type of expression conferred through direct dialogue with the matter. While a merely visible element, the primitive aesthetic expression comes from, simultaneously, what he sees in some plastic artists, namely in Miró, like I’ve said previously. He also shows other practical reasons to use primitive techniques. When working he wants the action to be produced in record time. In the dialogue between mind, hands and matter, he doesn’t want to lose the ideas that occur. Metals, other materials and techniques which he adopts, being so varied, have to be able to establish a link with the mind which facilitates the rise of forms quickly. With this option he also marks a reactive attitude. By using plastic means, with which he is able to make a jewel fast and expressively, he distances himself radically from the technical and configurative conjunctures of traditional western jewelry. Except for the welding of the metals and the sawing with thin jeweler’s blades, the gestual way of how he paints or ties stones with metal wire are, while processes, elementary. Recently, over the workbench, Ramón dialogues with materials which he finds. He uses them as fragments which he combines with each other and like memories of details of the beach, a street, or a place where he’s been. They attracted his vision, he collects them like so many children and adults have always done. When these fragments are by the sea, the water, when it touches them, highlights the forms, colors and textures.

“Now I use wood, stones, like the ones we can find on the beach or in a river. Bending down and picking up a stone which has attracted us, which has called our attention, looking at it and treasuring it, is I believe a gesture man has repeated thousands and thousands of times, since the beginning of humanity. Getting that effect, continuing that same gesture, picking up that stone without cutting it, without polishing it, without wanting to change it into something special because it already is special. I believe the first work of art, the first gesture of affirmation – because a work of art is a gesture of auto affirmation, it is to say I exist, it is me – took place when the first man picked up a bit of clay and squeezed it between his fingers. His fingers had left prints there and so he thought of bending the clay.”

The techniques he uses today continue to be primitive but they are not transformative. They consist in tying found fragments with metal wire or in gluing thin strips of wood which he paints with strong colors, blues and yellows, happy and luminous. Looking out the window of his studio I see the same colors on the boats which leave and then return to the harbor. In some cases, even the forms and the colors of enormous wharfare, which lift the containers of fish from the boats, seem like fragments of some of his jewels. Life in nature and the human activities related to the sea are interpreted in his work. According to Ramón, anyone, even a child could use techniques in the same way. Sometimes he associates the primitivism of the expression with keeping the child inside alert. Is it only and exactly that? The techniques, being primitive, become in Ramón’s jewels singular interpretations. The same can be seen in some configurations. Thus demonstrating continuous and metaphorically, the importance that the reflexive movements possess, many of the jewels have circular or oval shapes or include spirals, representing the will to understand his own creative process. Distancing himself, making a circle, going back, doubting, adopting critical attitudes to decide what to do next. He adds:

“You can make an art piece using materials directly; you can begin a speculation process, a dialogue, with a pencil or with a computer or with any tool; that is the least. But in that process, in that dialogue – between the shapes, materials, colors, tools – the manual capacities facilitate the emersion of the light, of something that might resemble something intuited. Then, when you have finished, you have made it, you feel it very much yours, a fragment of yourself.”

In the dialogue between the mind and matter, when decisions are made as the configuration appears, the most useful tool is the hand, not only because it receives stimuli from the brain, but also because it becomes agile and detailed with the repetition of fine and delicate gestures. Although he uses simple techniques which allow spontaneity, when he creates a jewel his hand gestures are as meticulous as the eyes that concentrate on details. The hands execute, in the micro world of a jewel, compositions of fragments of a macro world, from the sky or the sea, the context of belonging on which he is concentrated. Manual capacities and abilities, despite the simple technique, are of great importance, just like Boas has so meticulously described through many examples.[29] An individual who works over time with certain materials, in a certain way, develops manual and gestual skills gestures which are extremely useful in his activity. This reality is visible in Ramón’s work but there is something more which seems to be of greater value. Playing with the techniques and reinterpreting matter gives the jewels an expression of workmanship. In his jewels, materials, techniques, surface finishings, textures, oxidation, coloring of the metals, gain their own expressiveness, highlighted by the gestual way in which he uses them. They reveal, embedded in the matter, imagination and authorship. This adds on to the idea that he wants to materialize aesthetic value and his poetic intentions. This reinterpretation connected to the operative process through which he gives jewels expression, represents one of the facts of the construction of his creative self. It is equivalent to others already mentioned. He shows them in the jewels, in the content plan, when interpreting historical aspects of his heritage, when making clear how he daily observes the dynamic of his belonging context or yet, through the reflection on the symbolism of the adorned body in other societies.

Ramon Puig Cuyàs. 1980. Brooch. Casted silver.

Ramon Puig Cuyàs. 1999. Brooch. Silver, enamel, graphite.

 

 Ramón Puig Cuyàs. L’abraçada, 1986. Brooch. Silver, plastic, acrylic painting.

 

THE DYNAMICS OF IDEAS

 Due to restrictions or because they have decided to do so, certain communities have lived (or still live) investing in a present time, which is sedentary, contemplative, keeping certain cultural values inherited by the belonging group, clearly showing a great ability to live them, symbolizing not only actions but also human relations. Others are the opposite. They are cultures to be – which plan how to build futures – as the majority of societies in the 20th century in which, from its early stages, men have been showing the importance given to action, sketching, drawing and redrawing activities to dynamize and dominate what is to come.[30]

Ramón’s creative work and his social actions, engraved in an intercultural net in which jewelers keep close contacts, are contributions to introduce dynamics in jewelry. He lives the present, consolidating it in the past and through conducts towards action, he prefigures how to materialize intentions, creating, innovating – just like all the other jewelers do, participating in a different way and expressing himself creatively in his own way – to give efficiency, in modern times, the cause to which all commit themselves. He extends his productive activity, disclosing this cause through teaching and, like other jewelers from his and other generations, he coordinates not only local but also international events.

The net dynamics, which I was able to understand from the dialogues I kept with Ramón, are one of the most important aspects of anthropology. These social actors intend to restart the construction of the jewelers’ role, engraving it in a new scenario. They question themselves about the real function of this art, which is not only handmade but also speculative, and of the artists who practice it. With their creations these artists are sending more or less explicit messages, whose content – revealing a certain vision of the world- will be, as Ramón admits, interpreted by its users. The work created, shown in galleries and museums and disclosed through publications, as a mediator that connects the jeweler to each receiver of his work and these among themselves, creates symbolical bridges to the social recognition of the authors. Through the jewels they socially affirm an identity and build an alterity as artists. There are more explicit aspects, which are connected to their creative processes. They frequently use knowledge and ways of doing that, even though may be locally rooted, are usually techniques, which were disseminated through diasporas and multiple human contacts throughout the years. By speculating they associate dynamics of reinvention of techniques and operational processes. In several cases that sometimes conjugate with the previous one, by defying they introduce new techniques and materials, which are connected to other artistic scenarios. Thus, they propose new symbolisms to adorn the body. Many invest in the invention of strategies, subtly included in the content of the jewels, looking for effects that lead to the production of relational senses, in which these artifacts are mediators.

In the area of object production, from the 18th century onwards, but mostly with the 19th century industrial revolution, many new dynamics emerged in the west, due to the deep social changes that occurred. The coal extraction and the production of steel brought economical changes, causing mass migration to cities and suburbs, making it necessary to build new living areas, common objects and equipments. New industries were then able to respond to emerging needs, using new and more sophisticated techniques, able to produce low prices series of products. A new mechanical era starts, one that doesn’t have the artistic mind in its origin, but the economical and productive increase.

Soon, however, as international contacts are favored through new means of communication, appear the first manifestations of the artists’ and organizations’ willingness to participate. They question themselves about the reconstruction of their social roles in the emerging context. Following disagreeing views, as in literature and painting – thinking of artists as different as Fernando Pessoa or Giacomo Balla, to whom certain contemporaries of different nationalities opposed – opinions are divided during the transition to the 20th century and during the first following decades. In the area of mechanical object production certain artists, followers of the arts’ reunion, pursue other goals. As they get involved in projects connected to the already mentioned dialogue “arts and crafts”, they wanted to create beautiful unique objects looking opposite to the cold industrial ones. They thus use other social actors as artisans, who meticulously make their objects. But, although this was not their intention, the result was they produced more expensive objects, because they were handmade. These ones mainly represented social differences. Today, in a clearly multidimensional era, the jewelers I study reinvent these last social dynamics. They become distinct as they call upon themselves this dialogue between theoretical arts and hand made arts, because unlike what happened in the beginning of the 20th century, they conceive and make jewels themselves. I watch, hear comments or, more rarely, I perceive in their actions the pleasure they feel when they touch and transform the materials with their own hands and with primitive or mechanical tools. Rarely do they use sophisticated technological means. They become closer to plastic artists, reinforcing an option different from designers who, in most cases, just like architects, do not touch the matter.

Design, as a subject that today takes into account several viewpoints, has been characterized by social sciences, namely by anthropology, as an area in which – as a result of the industrial revolution – conception divorced itself from production, in opposition to crafts (or handmade arts) traditionally played by one actor only. Being, certainly, a distinctive characteristic of these activities, there are, implicit, interrelations with economical viewpoints typical of today’s world, that are equivalent to distinctive views of the world: a global dominant economical model and a minor one that comes as an alternative. Won’t design’s social leading role be a result of their connection (in different ways) with the global model, thus making designers’ social role clearly defined in relation to these jewelers’ one, designers who are connected to an alternative model, therefore making jewelers act upon the limit within the dominant system? Thus, jewelers’ production may not correspond to certain user’s ideals, as they turn to the consumption characteristics of the metamodern era, whereas designer’s correspond perfectly well to these ideals, for they base their work in market research. As they don’t work from the art’s market prerequisites, these jewelers want to seduce an audience whose characteristics are not predefined. In fact, this is one reason why, decades after, the social result of their work is similar to the one of “arts and crafts” movement. It wasn’t their aim either; in the 60’s many jeweler’s plan was to create inexpensive pieces that everybody could easily buy, jewels produced for other social performances opposite of showing status. Recently, Alamir and Guinard said they face situations of “elitist marginality”.[31]I prefer to say that they constitute a social fringe within the global system, representing a creative elite, acting in its core. With their origin in a stream of thought almost always pragmatic, their works are free will projects, based on experimentalism and on the task of reinitiating or opening new paths in the global arts scenario. These jewelers want to present several alternatives to the emerging diversity of ideals, and jewels can be the contribution to define distinction or charisma, seduction and, simultaneously, belonging of the owners, who adopt these jewels, within their social groups.reunido metafóricamente intenciones comunicativas.

Ramón Puig Cuyàs. 2002. Marcas Cardinales. Brooch. Silver, wood, plastic, glass, paper and bone. 4x10x1 cm.

Ramón Puig Cuyàs. 2000. Archipiélago-relicario. Booch. Silver, wood, plastic, stones   and lead. 7,5x7x1,5 cm.

Ramón Puig Cuyàs. 2000. Archipelago. Brooch. Silver, paper, wood, coral, mother of pearl, plastic, acrylic. 7,5×7,5×1,5 cm.

 

Ramón Puig. 1998. Arxipelag. Brooch. Silver, alpaca, glass, stones and wood. 8×7,5×2 cm.

     Ramón Puig Cuyàs. 1996. Constella.ciò. Brooch. Silver, alpaca and Cole Core. 8x7x1,5 cm.

The construction of a visual rhetoric

One day, while Ramón was showing me and talking about a wide and well-organized range of slides, something came up that was of special interest. He revealed that, as he was working and doing his creative discoveries, he retrospectively became aware, of having built a discourse in which he now observes certain semantic and expressive fidelity, with particular aesthetic intentions, and also the election of certain themes. He thus recognizes his way of doing and building a discourse. Meanwhile, I noticed, implicit in his words, that he also knows he has developed strategies to seduce the users. He says he is aware that, at the beginning, when he started making jewels, he acted according to his intuition. Progressively the reasons why he chooses certain materials and technical processes became clearer. He also defined the content of the message he wanted to send in his work. He simultaneously built a self and a creative alterity. He explained:

“Now I see it. Those art works are very far away, but they are part of that learning process. Maybe I should insert them in that context (20 years ago) and think about what other people used to do, too. I was already looking for a technique that was more agile and efficient. What we used to say, was making jewels that didn’t have precious metals – that were, in this case, made with paper or plastic – but that therefore allowed for a much more direct, much more immediate work”.

He clearly shows that there is a learning process, reminding me of something that was visible in the first jewels. It is necessary to take into account that in this context of time, jewelers felt attracted to materials with shiny lively colors (plastics, resinoids and others) which allowed jewels’ remaking and, simultaneously, allowed for the possibility of disturbing institutionalized jewelry. In Ramón, as in many other jewelers, the perception that the jewel is a symbolic relational mediator had not still awaken. So, to the authors each jewel played its role by using new materials opposing to the traditionally used. Therefore, in the area of production, they concentrated in the matter and not in the content, in the poetic messages, as they would come to do in the future. It was a game of shapes colors and materials.

He also refers to two other issues that are still present today, although, retrospectively, right now, they represent no more than seeds, parts of the construction of significance he wanted to give his work. In the beginning he already used techniques that allowed him to make his jewels quickly. He did it because he had never liked the small details and sophisticated technical aspects of jewelry. He likes the quick and intense dialogue with the matter. He therefore seems to be sketching his questions about the sense of adornment in other societies. But, at the beginning of his creative process, he does it only for emotional pleasure. However, it is clear that his first jewels already wanted to introduce new codes in what comes to body ornament, for he introduced dynamics of innovation, although they were still only focused on the visual aspects. He was showing he wanted to separate himself from everything that could be part of the western traditions of showing status through the use of elaborate jewels with precious metals.

The plastic elements and the expression they give them are of special importance concentrating in creating games of shapes and colors. In some, lines and graphic spots represent human bodies; in others he sets apart from figurative representation. He gives them a physical function as a jewel – almost always breast-pins, just like today – but he doesn’t give them a title, a name as it will happen with jewels he will make in the future – for these don’t have a defined content, nor is totally clear a function as a social testimony and creation. He is in the stage of discovering and opening a path:

“At the beginning the pencil was something more important, I did a previous drawing. After that it lost importance. I started working more directly with the matter”.

As he elaborates his speech, his different states of mind of his intuitive and emotional world interact with the dynamics of ideas, making him concentrate not only on certain aspects of the visible outside world or of his mental universe, but also on other rhetorics, on other plastic discourses. His first jewels, which followed a previous sketching, made him look directly reproduced in another plastic area, as they seemed graphic drawings made from metallic lines and spots. This is one of the aspects that’s still present in his work Señoras y Señores (Ladies and Gentlemen). Ramón says:

“These images don’t have that transcendent character, they will have later. They are more ironical, more humorous. Irony is something that doesn’t show much in jewelry, because it is something that is worth a lot of money, which is more transcendent or connected to magic – as we used to say before – it is something that we consider very serious. But these also represent references to a tradition that I still remember. People used to make figures out of bread. They were called Señoras y Señores (Ladies and Gentlemen) and people used to hang them in Easter’s palms. Surely this is an ancient tradition, ancestral, of an agriculture fertility ritual that remained until today, as many others, associating itself to rituals of the Catholic Church. So I also called these images Señoras y Señores.”

These jewels, being mainly a formal composition, come from something he observed and selected from his childhood memories. He concentrates himself on a local tradition, on figures made of bread, that remind him of the ritual he mentions. He says that, in the end, the children ate the puppets. He starts to show that the visual change he introduces in jewelry reveals his will of reinventing or recreating. This change frequently has, as starting point, elements of his visible world or Mediterranean social traditions. If the party is something that characterizes the Mediterranean world, from that he brings to jewels joy, movement and color. The image he gives them is not mimetic. By quoting the figures he reinvents them, making them bidimensional, made of colorful spots and lines. In some jewels of this series he uses the duality masculine, feminine, building bodies that are, at the same time, a lady and a gentleman, made up of characteristics from both genders and forming only one shape.

Other themes have come up in which he recreates images connected to parties or Spanish rituals. For example he concentrates himself on the image of the bullfighter, developing several colorful humorous images, with plastic characteristics close to Señoras y Señores. Ramón goes on and explains:

“It is not yet very clear but the idea of reusing elements from mythology and reinterpreting them is emerging. Little by little the idea of the duality of the anthropomorphic images, half animals, half people, also comes up. These have lost a bit of the ironic tone they had before, but they still keep the party tone, the freshness, and the lightness. They are made with pleasure, with joy.”

Since the end of the 80’s he has become interested in images connected to the sea, which will later be the core of his plastic speech. Meeting a past full of mist of tales, he reinvents fictitious anthropomorphic beings, making them inhabitants of the sea, or mythological Greek-Latin images, who nourished so many other hybrid thoughts.[32] He then remembers Neptune, Nereid and Nereus. The shapes enhance details that to the author characterize the characters. In the feminine bodies he enhances the lines and the breast; in masculine bodies the crotch and the head, which he transforms into a crown. Several sketches of Nereid also have a fish tail as a characteristic, transforming it, too, into an anthropomorphic image, through the conjugation with this fragment of the visual speech that will reappear in other jewels.

Drawings, that in this stage were still important to Ramón as a previous study and as a record of his thoughts, show that he was looking for an expressive economy, with which he could reduce shapes to the minimal and essential references, so he could shape what he wanted. Considering it a childish primitivism he says that now he relearned it with his children:

“They acquire a more elementary shape, more like children’s drawings. I realized it was very important to represent things in a much more schematic way. If you have a plaque with a geometrical shape, and you make two holes in it, it automatically becomes a face. If you remove the holes, it is nothing. This economy of means seem interesting to me, even though sometimes I may be interested in the opposite, in exuberance, in baroque. But at that time I was more interested in using economy of shapes and means to express the same things.”

It seems as though some jewels were built by a child, or they look like old toys made of metal to which he gave a singular expression. In many of these jewels, but also in drawings, as for instance in El Explorador (The Explorer), the eyes are just two circles on a flat surface, turning it into a face, thus illustrating what Ramón says in the previous quotation. The mermaid, an anthropomorphic element he so many times uses, shows, besides the evident fiction, quotations of his memory and of his eyes. He says what that element means in his thoughts. He captured the joy and the color of these elements, as I said before, in Miró’s painting. But the metaphoric elements he shows are different, because they belong to the universe Ramón has understood and to the way he interprets his emotions. The similarities and the metaphoric associations he establishes were built according to his mental universe, closely related to the sea.

A set of fragments starts to come up constantly in his speech: fish replacing body parts, waves and flippers that, used as adornments, reveal the presence of the sea, spirals, elements that show femininity; to stress the expression he uses bright reds, yellows and blues. These same fragments bring out distinctive details, representing different metaphoric allusions in other jewels.

The way he expresses his ideas is varied. Years later, he will return to certain themes. He’ll go back to the expressiveness of children’s drawings to the detriment of baroque. He will recall representative elements of western mythology, introducing new changes, but also elements and architectonic images, such as capitals, or, mainly, bases of columns, parts of frontons, porticos or façades. In other moments he will intentionally emphasize the characteristics that adorn the head and the body of the elements; some human or anthropomorphic elements, adorned with fragments, seem like jewels with jewels. He will frequently produce dual images. In many cases he will include shells or sea animals, the sun, stars, fruits, stones, wood fragments, plastics, metals and specially, elements that represent the sea and he will always look for them to find more. Ramón admits:

“There are a series of constant aspects in my work. I use a series of metaphors. The idea of circular, the idea of cyclic. My work has a lot to do with the sea and the sky, the night and the day, but always in a dual relationship, as in the feminine and the masculine, the sun and the moon, because the human being always has a double sense, the material and the spiritual. We all need to find our roots. But these roots can tie us, not allowing us to leave, because they are stuck in the soil. There is always this duality between the need to travel and to take things, and the need to unload things; otherwise you can’t keep on flying. There is always this opposite dialectic in which you have to find balance, but we are not quite sure where it is.”

He explains the reason why he uses certain tools when building his speech. He frequently confronts opposite elements, always using the metaphor of the journey. But he never represents the images he builds from these, in a mimetic or illustrative way, because he wants to awaken curiosity upon his jewels and wants to give them a multiplicity of meanings. He explains:

“In many of the art works I do the empty and the full is an allusion to things that are present or not present. The spectator can imagine what the rest of the object would be, what purpose it would have.”

The creative journey Ramón talks about is a process through which he weaves the paths of his work, as he consciously reflects upon things and gets involved. Developing its path throughout time, willing to discover, he built a rhetoric, a singular way of speaking through images, which give his work a visual unity. If we think of the Latin word fingere (to fake), in this journey fiction doesn’t relate to certain semantic extensions that are the same in both concepts, as for example simulation or illusion, but with the construction process itself, inventing, imagining, and creating.[33] It represents a symbolical and poetical projection of his historical legacy, and of the daily observed and lived reality, in which he recognizes a path. Thus he questions himself: what was their contribution to society and global world in which he inserts himself? He sees constant changes, introduced by globalization, such as superabundance of goods and images, the individualization of human options and the simultaneity of time. These all contribute to build a world that will never reach a finished totality. These social dynamics, that influence a group vision, is another challenge that pushes fiction forward in his work, interacting with the projects he prefigures his transhumance.

Ramón reveals in his jewels, as I have already mentioned, a hybrid thinking, which leads him to the freedom of conceiving juxtapositions and connections of matter. He builds his work, creating free from stylistic ways, characteristic of the plastic arts, and free from the traditional western jewelry rules. He thus reveals himself loose of the aphorism “all is said, all is seen”, that shows the saturation of the plastic arts scenario, not only in production but also in buyers. He also reveals himself loose from the emptiness of the creative investment in the traditional western jewelry scenario, which is accompanied by the lack of will in adopting new ways of using adornments by the users. By recognizing that most of today’s artistic phenomena reveal saturation, in both sides, by showing the need of changing the rules of production together with those of taste, he adopts a new aesthetic expression. Through the process of reinvention he adopts a quoting poetics. As he uses fragments of his cultural visions and makes them his production palette, he transforms them into matter fragments. Through metaphors and different approaches he creates visual and content variations in each jewel: he repeats them, he varies, he creates polycentrisms, polyphonies, rhythms.

When he expresses his ideas he does not progressively include more fragments. He builds his plastic speech around semantic recurrences of quotations to which he gives an image, through his fictional thought. The narrative time of his work is cyclical; it evolves around a set of fragments and themes that work as tools of a set of ideas of the conception and expressive language. Throughout the construction of his speech, Ramón shows fragments of a subjective world and view, making them appear and reappear, representing them in a subtle way or stressing them. The themes, the ex-vows, the talismans, the reliquaries and orientation objects also appear and reappear, unfolding his mysterious journey, in which he discovers his self and the way he clears the aspects of his imagination.

Fragment, both in arts and in literature, keeping “its occasional fractal shape”, may become raw material; it may have “a shape of its own, a geometry of its own. The valorization of its aspect is also part of the fragment’s aesthetics”. Quotation, without any nostalgia of the past, conjugates in many cases with the fragment’s poetics, being both creative materials. In the viewpoint of shaping, fragment expresses “chaos, casualty, rhythm; in its content it avoids “the order of connections, pushing the monster of totality” further away. At a communicative level, as an organizing principle of poetics, “repeating doesn’t mean at all lack of originality of the work”. All the variations of this repetition aesthetics are motivated: “from the historical point of view they are the natural consequences of the accumulation of cultural objects; from the philosophical point of view, they are the arriving point of some ideological needs; from the formal point of view, they are components of a universal baroque”.[34]

Historical and contextual motivations interact with styles and poetics and, therefore, with the aesthetic intentions of the artist. Ramón’s jewels explain the construction of dynamics with an aesthetic dimension. However, at the same time, they contain another dimension, more implicit (also interacting with historical and contextual motivations) that has to do with the effects he wants to produce in the users. Therefore he has also built communicative strategies with the intention of seducing the eye of the users. These are the words that best explain this last aspect:

“I believe that when we first look at a jewel, there is the first global vision and then the eyes start capturing the details, describing paths. At least, I suggest that one takes a series of paths; I suggest that each one is able to choose his/her different path, but I am also interested that there is a movement of the eyes, a stroll of the look. During this stroll the eyes will find, regarding shape, a spot, a line, a thick line, a thin line, a series of fragments… which is absolutely comparable to a musical composition, or to a series of instruments, of sounds, of sharp sounds, of musical notes, of tempo, of spaces, of rhythms.”

The movement he introduces into his jewels is a communicative strategy to give the user a chain of experiences. In a work based on fragments, reception may be the pleasure of extracting it from its belonging context and in the possible mental reconstruction within an imaginary frame of variety or multiplicity. The user can also be part of the process of constructing a jewel, if he is sensitive to the pleasure of watching it or if he has a perception category identical to Ramón’s. So, the multiplicity of fragments will act, extending the desire of contemplation. The user will wander his eyes over the art piece, multiplying time, quickly and immediately pushing away the global vision, delaying the conclusion.

In Ramón’s jewels the composition of polycentrism is frequent, so it can give the user a series of possible readings. As we saw in the previous quotation he compares it to polyphony. If we establish a parallelism with music, I would say there are several melodic lines that develop separately within the same tone. In jewels this means that the composition shows a set of fragments we can see at a first glance. But, if we look closely, we’ll see itineraries that coordinate within themselves. The fragments of dreams and memories that he quotes are like mysterious voices in the speech of composition.

His creative process has dynamics that are intimately connected to moments he felt and lived in his daily life, which justifies the ideas that come up in his discovery journey and creates the shape and expression he gives each jewel. It will always be like this, acting emotionally and intuitively. But in 1990, through a process of introspection, his work reached maturity. He finds out that to withdraw himself from his work means the “possibility of knowing how you do it, when you are doing it (reflexivity) with self-consciousness, critical attitude, resistance, doubts, refusal or even coming out of yourself in extreme cases of resistance, when there is nothing else you can do.”[35] That same year he wrote about the series Impressions de l’Atlàntida (Impressions of Atlantis):

“During 1990, as I had always been fascinated by the enigmatic and poetic beauty of the myth of the city buried by the sea, I started a series of art works with the global title Impressions de l’Atlàntida, which represents a way of reflecting upon my own process of artistic creation. Jewels acquire the character of archeological objects, of fragments of a found reality, becoming a metaphor of inner journey, in order to recognize the most intimate experiences. Technique becomes intentionally careless, the order of composition less evident, then plastic and colors, characteristic of previous stages, completely disappear, being replaced by greenish oxidations and natural reddish tones of copper or alpaca. The work is done in a much more improvised manner, the direct dialogue with the matter becomes stronger and drawing, as a previous stage, loses its importance in the process. These art works have evolved to a type of work related to ex-vows objects that can be found in small sanctuaries of popular devotion, in an attempt to reencounter, through the use of an ellipsis, the most ancient feelings of jewelry.”[36]

He thus questions himself about his creative process, about his plastic speech, wondering how to create, at present time, so that he can intervene as a social actor and reinvent symbolic representational links between man and the jewel.

It is now clear that his creative process comes, greatly, from a mental representation, that makes him act. He keeps using materials with no economical value; at this stage he invests in primitive techniques and strengthens the direct dialogue with the matter, pursuing a goal and an emotional intention of finding lost significances in jewelry. Moved by this representation and because he wants to rebuild an intimate, affectionate and symbolical ties between the user and the jewel, he builds art pieces that he considers to be ex-vows. He revisits the symbolical content that these artifacts traditionally had, reinterprets them and suggests that each jewel can have a productive reception. This suggestion represents Ramón’s invitation to those who behold the jewel, to question themselves.

As Augé recalls, the artwork “only makes sense if it is shared, if it is at the same time witnessed, a social act and a social creation.”[37] Maybe because he has developed a perception in a social perspective, as he previously said, Ramón is aware that the interpretation and reception problems are crucial in art. That is why he says:

“Creation is an act between two people. It ends when I stop transforming the object, but creation starts again from the creative look of the spectator, that in a certain way will recreate, will continue the creation. And in that sense creation finishes where I leave it but it continues when the spectator looks at the work. He is interpreting it, giving it a different meaning”.

He recognizes that interpretation is in the origin of the social effects that each artifact can cause. In order for jewels to be symbolic mediators it is necessary that the user, through interpretation, gives them a meaning. They can then, turn into human prosthesis, into projections of each individual, allowing the users to build an image of themselves and to themselves, establishing wanted social relationships or allowing others to know their identity.

According to Umberto Eco’s saying, Ramón’s thoughts show a premise of an open work. It conjugates with his will that a jewel symbolically interacts with those who wear it, representing it and becoming a relational mediator. These aspects, that he transfers to the matter, seem relevant in his speech, for the jewel’s polysemy, that constitute yet another challenge, may strengthen the curiosity of those who want to interpret them and use them. What he wants isn’t a passive reception, but a dialogical understanding of the aesthetic experience. He thinks that in the jewelry case, unlike what happens in other arts, the symbolic changes between author/user/users are only possible when the users question themselves, recognize themselves in the jewel, and then want to use it on the body, because they have opened themselves to new interpretative adventures.[38]

In 1991, during the time he was working in the series Impressions de l’Atlàntida, Ramón was in Harakka, a Finnish island, where he worked with other jewelers. There he produced two rings that are today amongst his most known art works. They have been mentioned and reproduced in several publications, because they are attached to an unusual performance. Ramón dropped the rings on floating supports in the Baltic Sea:

 

 

Ramón Puig. 1991. Buoy Rings. Acrilic painted cork and metal. Several sizes.

“I made the Buoy Rings to throw them in the sea as messages. Making a creative artwork is like throwing a bottle in the sea with a message and waiting for someone to find it. It is not like sending an e-mail to a specific address, but throwing it and waiting for someone to find it. It’s a bit like this, at random, which is also important. Besides this, these are rings that are supposed to have a function. This one has a helix; it is for a foggy day; with the helix you can make the fog disappear. This one is a marking signal; so that if someone gets lost, then he can find himself. They are rings for divers, because there is something that floats, that can swim.”

As he publicly shows his creative self in a different place from the one he usually does – galleries or museums – it represents a metaphoric inter-relationship with an imaginary receiver. This way he strengthens the intention of relating two creative acts: his act, which conceived the jewels and the act of those who eventually find them, that may interpret them, recreating and using them. The strategy of this action is an invention of Ramón that is equivalent to fiction connected to a poetic action. He enlarges this staging, bringing it to a new dimension in order to enhance effects, so that he can achieve, as in other jewels, the goals he wants to achieve in the reception: to create symbolic bounds between the user and the jewel.

However this performance has something more implicit. Ramón always points out that the act of communication through a work of art, can not be an imposition of the artist’s will, he prefers to share with the receiver, if he is willing to be part of the creative game. Thus he insists in the value of the sharing act, making it only possible when there is a reciprocal will between artist and receiver, that is, if both want to freely establish a trade whose motive is, through interpretation, to give meaning to jewels.

With the Anillos Boya (Buoy Rings) he implicitly introduces, in the context he belongs to, questions about utility and need. As these always represented social values connected to trade phenomena (each social group invests value in its own way), they differed from the societies anthropology initially studied, compared to the modern ones. By throwing the floating rings to the sea, Ramón seems to put into practice, at certain moments, the principle of total reciprocity Mauss talked about: in societies without market, “trade is supposed to be volunteered (…) it is practiced as if it were gifts, not as business trades or payments.”[39]

The dynamics of his creative process, make other visual shapes emerge, that as they center themselves in the tendency to value certain aesthetic intentions that I describe, coordinate themselves with communicative strategies connected to the user’s intention, that through interpretation gives meaning to the jewels. In his creative discovery journey, that from Impressions de l’Atlàntida on has the sea as its main theme, Ramón alludes to orientation objects and objects that help navigation. He goes on to talk about his work that regains the color and the joy his jewels had some years ago:

“The object of the journey also starts to come up. These objects allude – logically without being narrations – to compasses, to orientation objects, to help objects. In the series Constellations stronger colors appear again gradually. Objects are no longer archeological and become something different. In this case the journey isn’t to the bottom of the sea, but it is a halfway journey, between space, the sky and the sea. Once again they are jewels in which both vast universes melt, these two spaces that are able to create myths about them.”

In the series Constellations (Constelations) he still elects polyphonic compositions, in order to allow different interpretations, defying whomever looks at the jewels to interpret them. The quotation of memory fragments and

of the daily visibility of the surrounding world is kept, continually showing the wish of not separating them from his mind. In these jewels he simultaneously, and almost at the same level, shows star jewels, that are space stars or sea stars, moons and other planets, on surfaces of bright colors, where once again he coordinates sea and sky. He connects these elements with imaginary lineal trajectories, giving them plastic and poetic expression.

He introduces new recreations, as he alludes to the symbolical capacity adornments had, helping man to relate and orientate himself in his social and spiritual life. Metaphorically he then meets orientation objects: stars, constellations, compasses, magnetic needles and numbers, which are allusions to map co-ordinates. As he coordinates either constellations or archipelagoes he shows a relationship of similarity – or of relative importance – in his inside world, associating elements that would have an organized order in the sky or in the sea. Ramón also talks about new discoveries he made:

“The last ones, instead of being constellations, become archipelagoes. But archipelagoes are in fact, in a certain way, similar constellations of to islands. The idea of archipelagoes has to do with the metaphor that human beings are like islands, we can live more or less together but we always end up isolated from each other”.

In Atlantis Ramón shows his own impressions, where he builds a subjective and poetic territory. In the archipelagoes he also shows fictional images, created in his inner world. They are groups of islands that he compares to human beings who, as he says, know each other only fragmentarily. He believes that, despite the time one socially lives with others, one never knows each other completely, people only know parts and they will continually know parts, little by little. He talks about the plurality of elements that compose the self; of each individual, one knows fragments that rebuild him/her. He also thinks that any activity he learns, he learns by parts. He finally reminds that in creative work he has to pick elements from a chaotic world, trying to give them some sense, as if he was building a puzzle. He says he doesn’t have images or guides that help him discover the path he has to follow, in order to solve this imaginary game. In this series he shows, due to another emotional reason, that he is still attracted to the fragment of which he makes another poetic reading. In more recent jewels the technical resources and the materials are very different, as he explains:

“In this work with beach stones and glasses, the way of mounting them on wood is very simple because resources are very elementary, very primitive. Instead of the typical work with bezels or gallery wires, I imagined what someone would do if they found these stones at the beach, just like me and wanted to mount them. Although he isn’t a jeweler (like my son, for instance), which process will he choose? I thought, well, a bit of wire twisted on the back, a hole, I’ll place a bit of wire and mount the stones without the need of anything else, just like anyone who didn’t know any technology would be able to do, or even a child, because they love building their own toys. So, from this game, I discovered a new world where I could begin.”

These jewels are, most of them, metaphorical objects of sea orientation, like certain titles suggest or strengthen. They represent his wish for journey, for sailing the unknown, so that through this process of withdrawal and introspection, he can find himself again. In these jewels he uses primitive instead of transformable techniques, through which he reinterprets orientation objects, talismans and reliquaries, as symbolic adornments, allowing them, as always, a productive reception. Ramón adds:

“Sometimes instead of stones I find plastic or other sorts of things. I find them in certain streets, certain spaces, real, physical; then I gather and mount them. And instead of stone then, it is plastic, a coin, a beer cap. They are like souvenir talismans of that passage through a certain place, like reliquaries.”

Talismans represent memories of places. In reliquaries he keeps, in a glass case, relics, that probably represent parts of territories that inhabit his mind. Maps show his desire of inhabiting the unknown. The poetics that involves the names of certain jewels, as Archipielago-relicario (Archipelago-reliquary), shows they keep his dreams and the attraction for the mysteries of the sea, revitalizing, at the same time, the memory of symbolic artifacts. Those who see them do not share the content of these messages (the author’s memories). They will interpret them, producing different meanings, because today, according to each social group, interpretation is also divided into segments. This is the attitude Ramón would like the users to have:

“My artworks are like a musical composition: thick, thin, grave and sharp sounds, rhythms, so that the eyes can wander, right, left, so that tomorrow you may see this as a boat, the day after tomorrow you may see it is a constellation, that it is a map.”

In a perspective of the construction of man and of his alterity, actively participating in the world he lives in, Ramón follows his inventive subjectivity and the proposal that creation is a trade, that is, a double action between the producer of the jewel and the receiver of the jewel. He has progressively built a speech in which he introduces dynamics not only in the visual aspect but also in the reception and the use of jewels. Consequently he recognizes that he has built a self through this creation process. As he also says, jewels are to him orientation objects during his creative journey.

Ramón Puig Cuyàs. 1988. El nen amb la bandera.   Brooch. Acrilic painted silver. 15,2×7 cm.

CREATION, AN ACT BETWEEN ALTERITIES

Is there something implicit when Ramón says: “creation is something of two, of the one who makes, and the one who observes”, meaning there is an interaction between alterities?

As with all other artists, the product of Ramón’s operational process is to give meaning. He invests in the creation of each jewel, committing himself not only to the know-how, but also questioning and committing himself and his vision of the world to the motivations and personal reasons that made him choose jewellery as his way of expression, using his historical inheritance and the way he views the world, as primary agents of his imagination. In the intimacy of his studio, while building a creative alterity, he also reflects upon the way he socially acts and belongs in the art market, knowing that these elements are also constructive because they interact with the invention. But he is aware that the significance of each jewel – the intentions they have – doesn’t end when he finishes his work. He only represents what he wants to mean, disclose or share.

One day Ramón told me:

“Sometimes it is hard for me to recognise a jewel I made when I see someone wearing it. I recognise it but it gives me a strange feeling, as if it doesn’t belong to me. In a way that is because the person who wears it, has transformed it, making it his/her own; they have given it such a character that I feel it is something different. For example, I met a Vietnamese woman, raised in Switzerland, who had converted to Buddhism. She wore a jewel of mine, with an active spirit, aware that she had a relationship with the object. And she had a light, a dimension that you can’t obviously explain from a rational point of view, for we are talking of a world in which we don’t live in rationality but in emotion, in intuition. One could feel it was a completely different jewel. To me it was like a child with a flag, a child who is at the beach: The boy with the flag. That was what it represented to me, but to her it represented much more”.

Here Ramón recognises that it is in the reception act that each jewel acquires a social meaning: the eye of each user gives continuity to the creation act through their own interpretation. The jewel that represents Ramón’s creative alterity also represents the user’s interpretative alterity, for the user has made a mental representation of the artefact. By wearing it the user will extend this process. As he builds with the jewel an image for himself, he will keep on involving his individual imagination. The image that the user creates also represents a symbolic openness to society, identifying and representing him within the group he belongs to and, as a relational mediator, he contributes to the effect of group recognition.

El Nen amb la Bandera (The child with the flag) represents a child who, with a cheerful movement, carries a flag in his hand and has a sun on his arm. His eyes are simply two holes, representing his face; a vertical thread makes the nose and other wavy threads are his hair. This brooch, made in 1988, was probably bought in some exhibition Ramón doesn’t quite remember when and where it happened. As frequently happens he didn’t know who bought the jewel. Several years later, when he saw it again, it was transformed, certainly with less bright colours, due to the daily use by the Vietnamese woman. By giving it a meaning, she built an image to and from herself. Ramón talks about this meeting with emotion. He unexpectedly met this woman and, as he saw his work recognised, he confirmed that the jewel he had created kept on being recreated.

As he always gives great importance to what the jewels represent to the individual, he also knows that a memory or a gift can lead to the production of meaning. Mauss reminds us “the given object produces his reward in this and in another life”. The gift corresponds to a gesture that unites individuals and that always has implicit purposes that are part of the transaction. There may be a “voluntary character, as so to say, apparently free and without expecting anything in return”, or the transaction may be accompanied by a gesture “where there is nothing but fiction”, which to Mauss means “a social lie”.[40] What Ramón wants to happen in an act of creation between two, is a transaction generated by voluntary acts to which fiction is added by the subject that interprets it. To him, fiction means – just like in his work – invention produced by the user when he/she recreates the jewel.

He told me other episodes, in which he perceived gestures like these. I’ve selected another example:

“To me each jewel is a wish. But it can simply be seen as an object that one day was offered and, because of that, the jewel reminds of the person who offered it, no matter what one sees every time one looks at it. One day a man bought a jewel called The Last Supper. He knew he had some disease and, before dying, he wanted to give his goddaughter one last gift. I suppose he bought this jewel, partly, because of its title. The last supper, that is, before the evening starts, the goodbye, something that had to do with the last evening; therefore, he found some sort of relationship and bought it. The goddaughter, instead of wearing the jewel, considered it something that should be kept private. So, she built a box, a special container, to keep it inside and look at it; open the case, close it and remember the person that had offered it to her. But she kept that jewel private. That is why I also say that sometimes, when the jewels have a more transcendent function, one does not want them to be public, one wears them in private.”

Once again in this episode he stresses the interpretation. In this case he thinks the interpreter is the one who receives the gift. By not choosing to build with the jewel a public image for herself, she keeps it as a memory of an affectionate gesture from someone she loved. Recognising that interpretation is in the origin of the social effects, which an artefact can cause, he appreciates direct contacts (as it happened in both cases I stated, even though differently). They allow him to perceive how each user looks at one of his jewels, what each user perceives as well, how he interprets it, how he uses it and what it could represent. He understands the meaning given by someone who, through interpretation, recreates. Ramón adds:

“Well, I don’t know all the people that have my jewels. But I feel that they identify themselves with something that I am searching for, too. They are like journey companions of that exploratory journey. They use the jewels to feel connected to that search and, even though they are not the ones who build the object, they can do that work, as I was saying previously, with their look, interpreting the object.”

An intricate net of acts and human relations cooperate in the construction of a social meaning. The creative process meets another process that is not always posterior but is frequently simultaneous. In certain cases, it is previous and negotiable or conditioning of the work’s construction, which implies that the artist establishes a diversity of relations with other social actors and institutions thus getting involved in the symbolic market and in the economics economy.

The act of creation between two presupposes a symbolic trade that, most of the times, happens independently from the artist physical presence. Ramón introduces into the conception of his jewel, communicative strategies, in order to achieve effectiveness in this relational act. These strategies extend reception time, allowing interpretative adventures. He uses metaphors, polyphonies and the conjugation of multiple fragments, so that through the creation of curiosity in reading he can delay the conclusion. Because of this and because, like most of the jewellers whose viewpoints he shares, he doesn’t follow the market’s pre-requisites, the strategies he intentionally introduces are included in his creative process. They correspond to an invention being, therefore, part of the construction dynamics of his own plastic speech. Through the affirmation of his vision of the world and of his intentions as a social actor, he seems to admit that the work only plays its social role through the user’s interpretation.

According to his vision of trade, Ramón shows how he belongs and acts in today’s world. Considering that today the meaning doesn’t come form inherited or highly shared values by society, but that it fulfils itself according to individual or collective fragmentised intentions, he adopts two conjugated procedures. On the one hand he comes closer to hermeneutics; he admits that interpretation, the free and different way of reading and understanding, leads to the production of meaning. Because he wants his jewels to be more than an artefact with no emotional value, he understands that the user, through interpretation, will build fiction, turning the jewel into something that, for some reason, to the user is unique. He thus exemplifies that, in certain cases, the creative processes present themselves as “epistemological metaphors, as structural resolutions of a widespread theoretical consciousness (not of a certain theory, but of an acquired cultural conviction): they represent the repercussion of certain acquisitions of contemporary scientific methods, in a formative activity.” As today science is familiar to man, it is integrated in the methods area of arts, interacting at a practical level with matter and emotion. “Thus the open art as an epistemological metaphor: in a world where discontinuity of phenomena has endangered the possibility of a definite and united image. This suggests a way of seeing what one lives, and by seeing it, one accepts it in our sensibility.” [41]

On the other hand, the way he sees trade leads, once again, to the reanimation of the memory of lost meanings, valuing the act of sharing creation – admitting the openness of the work and, once again, through another epistemological metaphor, which also shows that his perception is socially oriented – he seems to reuse the “total contribution” Mauss talked about. In societies that anthropology traditionally studied, the trade of goods, voluntary or purely economic, that sometimes happened even though there were no organised market systems, was established through the exchange of goods that were considered equal and according to principles of total reciprocity. Just like today, they reflected a sort of relationship between individuals or groups that is only understandable in their belonging context. But in western societies economical, juridical and aesthetic factors still interact with this area so trade is determined by its purposes and by the sort of contract there is. Ramón built a mental representation about “total contribution” that makes him act socially, because this representation corresponds to an emotional wish for change. He suggests a symbolic trade of creation acts between himself and the receiver or a possible buyer. Through this exchange, wanting to recreate links between the man, the jewel and its symbolic function, he seems to reanimate this primitive trade of goods, in a society based on opposite economical purposes. That is why in his sentence – “creation is something of two, of the one who makes, and the one who watches” – it is implicit the wish for this act to be a trade of creative talents. This symbolic trade, being a model of the economy of symbolic goods, opposes the merely economic trade for trade. It has “in its origin not a calculator subject, but an agent that is socially willing to be part of the trade game, without any intentions or calculations.”[42] What Ramón suggests is that other social actors should be willing to voluntarily be part of the creation game, having Ramón the role of conception and the others the role of interpretation, in this trade of goods.

On a first approach, it is possible to step away from trade not only economical calculation but also underlying interests, for one of the purposes that stands out in its performance is the intention to produce change in the way western individuals understand and give meaning to jewels. He ambitiously pursues the creation of jewels that are opposed to the abundance of objects that man is surrounded by nowadays, and that Ramón considers to be ephemeral, just like fashion, and which he associates with daily operational utilities. Talking to Ramón also means understanding certain differences that he establishes in this area:

“There are people who say that jewellery – nowadays – already includes all the small artefacts, like that headphone you’re wearing right now to listen to the tape recorder, small computerised objects we can use upon our heads, small microphones, wireless telephones, laptops, clocks with lots of different functions… I mean, here are people who think that XXI century jewellery includes this sort of objects… but I think this is a slightly wrong vision, for we are talking about objects that have a practical function, a utilitarian one, and when we talk about art, when we talk about the symbolism, there is never a merely utilitarian function”.

This opinion also applies to the change of goods. He doesn’t see all objects as mediators, able to create symbolic trades and to represent the individual. He thinks that only certain artefacts have the ability to become memorable, because the user, through recreation, gave them meaning and added values that were not strictly economical. He believes that when these objects are publicly disclosed, only part will be able to generate links and mediate intersubjective relations that don’t come only from the image recognition that the user has – as is common today – but come from the sharing of visions of the world that correspond to coming imaginations which react to the totalitarian homogeneity. These pretexts correspond to the social roles Ramón wishes to be accomplished by his jewels.

As Mauss reminds us, “it was in our western societies that, very recently, man became an “economical animal”. But not all of us are that sort of human beings, yet (…) for a long time man was a different thing; and it hasn’t been long since he has become a complicated calculating machine”.[43] Economical globalisation, historical acceleration and the individualisation of projects, led to a crisis in the determination of meaning. The consumption of the ephemeral, which characterises the current material culture, and the constant presence of image, strokes the world. Beyond the images themselves there frequently is nothing else. Ramón questions himself about these issues. Thus he reacts overvaluing the need to participate in the production of a new symbolic reading that, in opposition to the current situation, presents itself as an alternative path. He wants his jewels to be more than ephemeral images, he wants them to transcend the current order of realities he wants each user to create his own representations, giving them meaning.

In an ulterior approach, this observed reality connects itself to implicit domains, with what I perceive of his subconsciousness, observing certain gentle gestures or hearing some rarely said words. These small details led me to an understanding of the self-recognition of the alliterity that he has built as an artist – which he subtly includes in his actions – and of his status in symbolical and economical transactions. He didn’t kill his previous intention and, as both coexist they correspond to parts of his self that stand out, one at a time, according to the moments he lives. Ramón frequently talks with pleasure about his proposal of the creation shared by two. But he avoids economical aspects related to the jewels’ sale that, inevitably, exist. He uses a euphemistical language, with which he also makes implicit the use of his symbolic wealth in these actions. In the next excerpt he introduces new details in his speech:

“There isn’t a buy and sale relationship (now, because I pay, it is mine); it’s just a symbolic act. It is so: “you dedicated some time to do this; you let me keep this; I know you need that to survive, for we are in an era where money is needed, we are in a society in which money is important, it is necessary for us to live. So I give you some money, but I know that the money I give you doesn’t pay anything (absolutely nothing) compared to what you give me.” There is a convention; we agree to a certain amount: “I pay, I give you some money, but this jewel is still yours, and it will also be a bit mine (a bit more mine); but the jewel is yours even though I give you some money.” It’s not a matter of sale, but of being able to use, even without really belonging to them, even if it can be made theirs through reinterpretation.”

The symbolic trade takes place as an almost magical action, in which the symbolical wealth of the artist allows the exchange of skills. It demands from the people involved actions, behaviours and concrete and observable relationships, that reveal explicit phenomena of conscious character; underlying structures act simultaneously as expressions from the subconscious area. The artefact is no longer a material object to become something transcendent, a sort of message or symbol capable of creating a social connection.

As an artist Ramón has a symbolic worthiness that makes him produce, even though unconsciously, a symbolic domination. Socially he is not authorised to show it. That is why I’ve rarely seen him talk about this area. Yet, in his last quote of the dialogue we kept, he talks about the sharing with the receiver as a less relevant area, a sharing he so frequently suggests. He momentarily forgets there is a buyer, whose role in buying isn’t merely symbolic, for it isn’t just interpretative. He bases himself in his symbolic wealth, as well as in the existence of an interest for disinterest, sustained by him and his journey companions’ identical perceptions and appreciations. He sends them to a market of symbolic acts; where profit is the possibility to interpret.

As jewels are poetic quotes, fragments of observations and memories. Ramón sees in them moments of the construction of his speech and of his alterity as an artist; they are milestones of his identity in the scenario he is part of. The jewels and the speech he built are symbolic mediators in the relationship with other artist and other art scenarios. They represent the mentally developed self-recognition of the dynamics he introduced in jewellery. Thus, like other artists, when he finds a jewel that has been reproduced in some publication, or being worn, he looks at it as a good, that in the area of symbolic economy, belongs to him, because it is his, when in fact, from the economical economics point of view it isn’t his anymore. Jewels publicly represent his invention, the self that he staged and the alterity he built. Therefore, metaphorically, they belong to him.

The immersion of new dynamics in jewellery depends, not only on the actors that produce it through creation, but also on others who, through participation in the building of the artists’ names, disclose, promote and sell the jewels. Therefore an interrelation of agents connected to two social processes that imply different activities is necessary. The first involves the individual production of jewellers, whose work, as it is carried out from its place of origin to that where the jewels are staged, reflects conception and accomplishment characteristics, individual or local, identity, the history of the jeweller and in extension, of the net. The second, involving commerce and disclosure, mostly done by those who run the galleries, sustains itself not only in negotiations with the jeweller but also in the construction of a net of social relations with producers, with the public or eventually, with a buyer, and with several agents – other galleries, museums, critics, editors, collectors, web sites – in order to create different attractions to the jewels’ sale.

These processes that cross each other, correspond to the development of activities that are based on projects, on prefigurative and inventive systems whose goals, even though different, aim at the actors’ interaction because their success depends on it. The conception systems of each jeweller (object producer) are individually diverse and they aim (implicitly or explicitly) at the acquisition of symbolical and economical wealth. The projects of the gallery owners are made individually and are a result of the producers’ projects. The gallery owners’ systems, in articulation with a variety of social relations and negotiations, aim at producing dynamics in this jewellery viewpoint, so that, simultaneously, a symbolic wealth of the gallery owners and of the gallery itself can be built. These dynamics will be produced on a medium term and will have a reflection on economical capitalisation.

In galleries, here seen as meeting points, is built the identity and the history of the jeweller that exhibits his works, of the social group and of the institution. Social connections and exchanges are generated or negotiated. Although Ramón’s last quotation may lead us to thinking that he sees calculation as a taboo, for he prefers to disguise the trade as a symbolic convention, it is not rare to see him explicitly argue about the complementarities of these processes, thus focusing on the way conversations, plans and agreements with actors connected to institutions, occur.

In the scenario in which he inscribes himself appears a mixture of protocols, combining plastic arts and jewellery scenarios. Both in galleries and in museums jewels are staged just like paintings or sculptures closed in display windows, strengthening their visual aspect. Especially in openings where they are publicly seen for the first time, they are rarely touched or worn on someone’s body. Thus, contrarily to places where traditional jewellery is staged, the user has to imagine, predict how he would use them.

Although they are not the same galleries that display works from the plastic arts, there are galleries in many countries that dedicate themselves to displaying and negotiating jewels produced by jewellers of this viewpoint. We have recently witnessed improvement, but several of these galleries do not have social, symbolic or economic power similar to those that display plastic arts. Consequently many can neither establish the same kind of institutional qualified protocols, nor can be willing to do that with the artists, through contracts or through promotions in different countries. Therefore, as Ramón says, on the one hand he feels less supported from the institutional point of view. In certain cases, he really feels that the answers he wanted from galleries are not qualified enough, in comparison to other art scenarios. His creative process is not conditioned by negotiations or protocols and, even less, by institutional impositions, namely in critiques. He has much more freedom to act and express the dynamics of his ideas.

Invitations to participate in events, in jewellery meetings, seminars and workshops, for his work to be included in specialised publications, to be displayed in galleries or museums, depend greatly on his symbolic worthiness, on the knowledge and the recognition of the work he has built. They are a result of subtle, almost inconspicuous, negotiation protocols that are inscribed in social ceremonies, therefore not leading to institutional conventions. As they are discrete actions, they are only seen in society, they are at the right place, at the right time, to guide or participate in meetings or workshops that take place somewhere. This euphemistical market of symbolic actions is a linking bridge to the market of economical economy.

Ramón has jewels that are permanently exhibited in galleries of different cities and countries. In these galleries, several creative and market processes cross each other when people go there to buy jewels, or just to see them and when some of the jewellers and actors from other institutions go there to talk to the manager and to do businesses that are interesting to each of those involved.

When a new exhibition opens several actors with distinct roles go to the gallery, multiplying themselves, in a time action, as all their actions and the underlying structures of the daily social plot are observable. Their staging are rituals, whose dynamics are collective. At stake are Ramón, the institution, other jewellers, the visitors and the jewels. One can observe specific behaviours and languages known by the group. These singular meetings represent moments of strength and stability, which imply externalisation, therefore contributing to a public consciousness, the (re)construction of Ramón’ identity and history, of the net in which he inscribes himself and of the institution itself. These meetings aim at allowing the recognition of the actors; they are “negotiation stages” that conciliate “ the conducts of different individuals that are part of the ritual actions, as if it were a theatre stage”[44]. The ritual aspects, privileged moments of the life in a group, give order to disorder, give meaning to the accidental and understandable.

These principles are still valid in today’s society where certain transactions seem to be independent phenomena. By equally generating or reinforcing social bounds and social cohesion they are simultaneously revealing the expression and synthesis of the jewellers’ life and the net. In the inauguration of the exhibitions the context changes, extending itself and having consequences, causing effects of sociability and catharsis that may not correspond to conscientious and delivered intentions of the actors. The whole operational system is globally part of the game. The action is complex, made up of interdependent contributions that lead to the creation of the idea of global interaction in the net and to collective and individual relationships with other social scenarios.

When we talk about art, we frequently stress the existence of underlying structures that are connected to interest trades, which imply subtle negotiations of symbolic wealth. Therefore, the need to distinguish explicit operational expressions from implicit operational expressions, as structural fragments within a global dynamics, comes up.

Jewels, the way they are displayed and the internal area of each gallery itself, clearly reveal aesthetic options. The way each actor builds an image to display in a certain stage reveals or implies his aesthetic orientation or the way he wants to be recognised by others. Among the judicial and economical factors that are at stake, it is publicly known the sort of service galleries pay: jewels are the motive of economical economy, leading to a specific kind of consumption from those who are looking for an art object, implying the choice of an aesthetic option. Although they are usually oral, business contracts connected to exhibitions are known by Ramón, and also by other jewellers and eventually, by other social actors. These include certain percentages from each gallery that reflect on the product sale.

One can understand implicit questions concerning a simple trade of a creative product for an economical value, being the gallery manager a mediator. Certain gestures and behaviours are connected to prestige and distinctions, to the symbolic economy of all participants. Those who go to an exhibition opening don’t go there just to watch; they go to be watched, they go to be included – consciously or unconsciously – with their personal reasons, in the performance. Certain ones are looking for a distinctive jewel, unique, signed. What is at stake is the expansion of interdependent symbolic wealth – in certain cases socially negotiable – of the institution and of the one who runs it, (implying relationships with others) Ramón’s self and his (re)construction as he stages his work and the social group that is present.

The institution gives credit to the exhibition, when it is welcomed in a museum or galley with a socially recognised symbolic worthiness, and a recognised artist gives credit to the institution. When an artist displays his work in a museum, the inaugural ritual is directed to symbolic trades.

In this net of moving things, it isn’t just creation that is at stake. A creation sustained by the interpretation of each user who, reflecting upon what he observes in a jewel, gives them meaning. During the ritual staging, several alterities establish symbolic trades, that, as they have different aims, dynamize the context and create a social meaning. Each one participates in a different way, causing symbolic efficiency in jewels, in the scenario and in all individuals that are part of this action. They amplify Ramón’s wish!

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[1]    F. Dias, J. A.,1993, “Corpo a Corpo”, in Ilegítimos, Lisboa, Galeria Artefacto

[2]    Augé, Marc, 2000: 98, “El no Lugar y sus Objectos”, in magazine Experimenta 98, Dec., nº 32, Madrid, Experimenta.

[3]    The movement art and crafts introduced a new orientation, based on vaster diversity of materials, sophistically worked. Schools were also created where, simultaneously, the artistic initiation was made assuming visual representation of ideas or concepts applied to the creation of objects with specific practical functions, in some cases, allied to the learning of specific techniques. One of the most paradigmatic examples of this association between artistic initiation and technique, applied to various art and design fields, namely jewellery was Bauhaus (Weimar, Dessau, Berlin, 1919 / 1933, reappearing in the USA). These schools closed or were converted during WWI or WWII, reopening later on. The initiation of many jewellers, of a following generation, was done precisely in these renovated schools. Several others appeared in Europe and in the USA, adapting teaching models with several differences among them. All brought significant changes. They represented an opportunity to learn with qualified teachers, open to new plastic arts and techniques. Dedicated to renovating, like the jewels themselves show (through the configuration and materials) they clearly showed a unanimous wish to present alternatives to the static traditional western jewellery. Dormer and Turner – in The New Jewellery: Trends and Traditions (1985) – consider that this new orientation took place in the 60’s. At that time jewellers took an interest in defying the institutionalised jewellery, redimensioning the jewels and turning to the use of all types of materials. But because the teaching models of these schools were different, tendencies and a diversity of expressions among jewellers arose.

[4]    Certain non-precious materials artificially produced had already been used in western jewellery for distinct reasons were filled with different social meanings. The fancy for fantasy and ostentation in the 18th century, for stones and gold laces which decorated both feminine and masculine clothing, led to, due to economic reasons, the creation false sophisticated jewels, by using already existing technologies. Certain stones were designated as strass, according to the name of the inventor. One of the many examples of this parallel but legal work, was the existence of a corporation of joaillers-faussetiers, in Paris, which worked with high technical quality. Another is the production of false gold, especially in London, by using gold plated metal alloys. From the 19th century on, exotic materials brought from Africa and South America, considered non-precious but susceptible to be used in the institutionalised jewellery began to be used in the West; corresponding to the high regards for the mystery of the exotic (D’Orey, L., 1995, Cinco Séculos de Joalharia: Museu de Arte Antiga, Lisboa, Instituto Português dos Museus).

[5]    “It is mainly the transformation into the concept and the status of a jewel that, for the anthropologist, makes The New Jewellery a privileged object of attention and expectation. The reexploration of the relation between the object and the person that uses it, maybe re-establishes, in a pertinent way for our societies and our beliefs, the so-called internal splendor. They are jewels conceived to confer individuality, to reflect personal charisma. Jewels that demand identification capacity from those who use them” (F. Dias, J. A.,1993:12).

[6]    This shock was verified in the beginning of the 20th century because artists exerted a permanent challenge on the status quo and on the social expectations which was also reflected within the most conservative sectors of the artistic scenario. On the verge of modernity, it was the creation of a “new” expression in the arts that sustained the construction of the artist’s identity. A dynamic opening to innovation opposed classical western art, which was represented by a representative group of canons and rules which defined techniques and means to be used. Modernists believed they lived in a time where the threshold of technical civilisation, arts and literature, would lead them to grand horizons. With the emersion of photography and the evolution of technical means for the graphic reproduction, art (painting and sculpture) no longer had to assume a mimetic social function. From then on, art would no longer need to materialise local political and religious figures or social events. Once these pre-defined exterior references had disappeared, the path to discovery became clear. Several artists were interested in the exploration of internal variable, feelings, impulses, emotions, mental images. Others were attracted to new visible external references in a social world in change, to what they perceived in the technique, the machine, specialised press (art and literature) which was becoming international, to the possibility to travel in the market where other merchandise circulated, including the exotic.

[7]    Jauss, H. R., 1991, Teoria de la Recepció Literària, Barcelona, Barcanova.

[8]    Calabrese, O., 1999: 63, A Idade Neobarroca, Lisboa, Edições 70.

[9]    An artistic phenomenon may seem to “cause a double or mixed movement, sometimes changing the terms of the opposition, others annulling them. For example: it uses the limit making it seem excess because trespassing the barrier occurs on a formal level; or it uses the excess but calls it limit to make the revolution of the singular content acceptable; or, finally it makes an operation on the limit or by excess confusing and unable to be distinguished. Contrary to the dynamic eras (I meant revolutionary) the neo baroque taste – concept this author opposes to postmodernism, a passe-partout that has been widely used to define a contemporary tendency line (…) which has lost its natural meaning and has become a word of order or a mark in various creative operations, all different among themselves” – it configures as in permanent suspension, excited but always inclined to the subversion of value categories. For this reason, it is not possible to say that certain vanguard style operations can fit into neo-baroque. The Dadaistic gesture is excessive and aims at the system crisis. (…) The student protest type ‘movement of 68’ is excessive but it presents itself as a limit and looks for social acceptability” (Calabrese: 1999, 24, 81).

[10]   There are numerous publications and individual and collective exhibition catalogues, although the history of the New Jewellery has never been written, because as Dormer said, it would be extremely complex. “Although the jewellery we are looking at it is characterised by individuality, it is quite clear that several groups of artists share similar interests in content or in style, or have had the same teachers, or have simply grown up in similar cultures” (Dormer, P. e Drutt English, H., 1995: 12, Jewellery of our Time: art, ornament and obsession).

[11]   The concept “alterity” (although is not an English word it is assumed by anthropology) corresponds to “alteridade” in the original Portuguese text (Lat.alteritate). Not meaning identity, it emphasizes that the other is close to and within the self, as a plural, transitory and ephemeral reality whose constituent elements each individual sets in motion or develops, according to his past and present, his own options or possibilities, throughout his/her life (author’s note).

[12]   Arnheim, R., 1976, La Pensée Visuelle, Manchecourt, Flammarion: 28.

[13]   Arnheim, R., 1976: 105.

[14]   Augé, M., 1998, El Viajero Subterráneo, Barcelona, Gedisa.

[15]   in Journeys of Ricasso, RTBF, 1966.

[16]   Sousa, E., “Todos os Caminhos Vão Dar a um Estado Zero. Por Enquanto…” in Alternativa Zero: Tendências Polémicas na Arte Portuguesa Contemporânea, Lisboa, 1977: w/o page.

[17]   Portoghesi, P., 1983, Postmodern, New York, Rizzoli.

[18]   Augé, Marc, La Guerra de los Sueños, Barcelona, Gedisa, 1998: 17.

[19]   Puig, Ramón, 2001, Cal preparar-se? Estratègies per a la Supervivència, Barcelona, Massana School.

[20]   The concept ”hybrid” corresponds to “mestiço” in the original Portuguese text (Lat. misticiu). Biological questions were not taken into account. What was considered were the results of intercultural encounters and social dynamics where the individuals involved freely establish dialogues. From these arise ways of thinking that lead to processes of creative production where shared elements coexist (author’s note).

[21]   Laplantine, F. e Nouss, A., 1997, Le Métissage, Évreux, Flammarion.

Gruzinski, Serge, 1999, La Pensée Métisse, Paris, Fayard.

Augé, M, Não Lugares: Introdução a uma Antropologia da Sobremodernidade, Venda Nova, Bertrand, 1994.

Jarauta, Francisco, Identidades y Conflitos Civilizatorios”, Madrid, magazine Experimenta, nº32, December, 2000: 80.

[24]   Gruzinski, Serge, 1999.

[25]   Torres, C., “O Garb-Al-Andaluz”, in Mattoso, J. (Dir.), História da Portugal, Vol. I, 1992: 363, Lisboa, Circulo de Leitores.

[26]   Augé, M., 1998, La Guerra de los Sueños, Barcelona, Gedisa.

[27]   in Fusco, R., 1993: 192, História da Arte Contemporânea, Lisboa, Presença.

[28]   Italo C., 1990, As Cidades Invisíveis, Lisboa, Teorema: 30.

[29]   Boas, Franz, 1996, Arte Primitiva, Lisboa, Fenda.

[30]   Boutinet, J-P., 1996 Antropologia do Projecto, Lisboa, Instituto Piaget.

[31]   Alamir, M., Guinard, C., 2001: 4, Parures d’Ailleurs, Parures d’Ici : Incidences, Coincidences, Lausanne, Museé de Design et d’Arts Appliqués Contemporains.

[32]   Gruzinski, S. 1999.

[33]   Borutti, S. in Calame, C., Kilani.M., 1999, La Fabrication de l’Humain dans les Cultures et en Anthropologie, Lausanne, Payot.

[34]   Calabrese, O., 1999:45, 100 These aesthetics represent “simply an “air of time” that spread across many of today’s cultural phenomena, making them related to each other and making them, at the same time, different from all others in a past that is more or less recent. Therefore this author associates today’s scientific theories (catastrophes, fractals, disperse structures, chaos theories, complexity theories and so on) to certain arts forms of literature, of philosophy and even cultural consumption. “This doesn’t mean that this association is a direct one. It only means that its cause is similar and that it has transferred itself in the most specific ways in all intellectual area” (Calabrese, 1999:10).

[35]   Ribeiro, J., 2000:7, “As imagens na Soociedade Contemporânea!, in Imagens da Ciência, Maia, Prof Maia.

[36]   Galeria Hipótesi, 1995:62, Ramón Puig Cuyàs: Dibuixos de Tailer; Barcelona.

[37]   Augé, M., 2001:126, Ficciones de Fin de Siglo, Barcelona, Gedisa.

[38]   Eco, U., 1976, Obra Aberta, São Paulo, Prespectiva “It is mostly Umbert Eco’s work, that, from the serial music, sketches Obra Aberta (1962). It is the first open and always progressive structure of the meaning theory, according to which, each work of art, with an open structure, needs an active co production from the user, this without being, one work only, despite the multiplicity of interpretations” (Jauss, 1991:35) .

[39]   Mauss, M., 1995:130, Ensaio sobre a Dádiva; Lisboa, Edições 70

[40]   Mauss, M., 1995:53,60.

[41]   Eco, U., 1976:154,158.

[42]   Bourdieu, P., 1997:126, Razões Práticas, Lisboa, Celta.

[43]   Mauss, M., 1995:198,199.

[44]   Ribeiro, J., 2001: 31, Colá S. Jon, Oh que Sabe!: As Imagens, As Palavras Ditas e a Escrita de uma Experiencia Ritual e Social, Porto, Afrontamento.

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