The liquid mirror, 2010

Objects, fragments, revelations, accidents, jewels... Anima and Platina, the new body of work by Ruudt Peters creates an encounter with things that position themselves ambiguously between the natural and the artificial. They resemble findings of a melted mineral realm, or capricious organic structures, like flowers with phallic pistils, or the pattern of a coagulated fluid. Are they Objet trouvé or carefully designed artefacts? They can be interpreted in both directions and at the same time they are neither one thing nor the other. Ruudt Peters explores the unconscious territories of creativity in order to produce formless matter, defying intention, structure and taste.

The challenge of representing formless matter, has fascinated artists and designers in different times. The scrollwork and soft malleable masses of the Rococo ornamentation seemed to swell up like waves or clouds. Art Nouveau with its endless curving and flowing “coup-de fuet” designs made Salvador Dalí exclaim that the soft architecture of the Modern Style possessed a terrifying, edible beauty. Not in vain Surrealist painters embraced the vocabulary of forms melting away loaded by erotism, arranging a disturbing encounter between bodily secretions and psychoanalysis. Contemporary art is inhabited by several representations of fluidity, especially in narratives around the body, awakening desire and repulsion, embarrassment and attraction.

In a similar way, the aesthetics of viscosity characterises Ruudt Peters’ new work. Anima and Platina start after a period of intense drawing, as a kind of therapy. Following an intuitive method in the tradition of automatic writing, Peters trains a free, non-mediated expression, where gestures try to capture the undulations of his unconscious activity. Drawing confronted him with his female side, following Jung’s definition for Anima and Animus. Both concepts refer to the unconscious or true inner self of an individual, Anima being the personification of the female soul of every man and Animus the male equivalent for a woman.

In order to translate these experiences into a tangible work, Peters opted for the technique of pouring warm wax into water. In doing so, he allows chance to manage the consequences of this gesture, giving rise to an elastic calligraphy of the unconscious. The chosen process has alchemical connotations, a philosophical tradition that has been present in Peter’s work since the beginnings of his career. Some theosophical societies in Central Europe still pour lead into water in order to predict the venture of a coming year, by interpreting the shapes of the abruptly solidified metal. Molibdomancy is also a divination method, consisting in pouring lead into water and interpreting its noises and hisses.

The instant when Peters decides to pour the wax may be as short as when, one second after, he decides if the resulting piece is acceptable or not, if it is trash or treasure. Chance draws a fine line between success and failure... Such fleeting moments of production and evaluation seem to be taken in an exhalation. Not in vain the etymological root of the Greek anima refers to the primal breath. In this way, Anima connects with a former series of work Pneuma (2000), meaning also “air”, “spirit” or “breath” in Greek. In Platina the sinuous objects receive later a shiny PLATINA coat and a superficial cut, that reveals the inner matt layer. Like in the former series Azoth (2004), such cuts attempt to bring structure and “male” direction to the “female” uncontrollable fluidity of the work.

Mirrors hanging from the ceiling have been used as a display for the Anima and Platina series. If these works materialise an encounter with fluidity and dissolution, the mirrors offer a perfect, stable surface where this encounter becomes controlled and focussed. Mirrors offer an experience of subjectivity, they act as vehicle to visualise the other in oneself, like quiet water, the first mirror of Narcissus, and also the technical and metaphorical key for the execution of these works.

Within a second Peters transforms otherness, complexity, and emotion into a creative impulse. Recovering the thrill of young apprentices, pouring melted metal into cold water in order to wonder at the explosion, the danger, and the unexpected results of a solidified splash, Peters dares to approach the “no go areas” of amateurism. Coming back to zero and exploring newly discovered aspects of his female unconscious, he claims the privileged position of a permanent beginner: never become an expert, question oneself constantly. With this critical attitude Peters attacks mastership as a static goal, which once achieved does not progress any further and above all avoids risk taking, one of the most fundamental drives for art and design.

Mònica Gaspar, Zurich  April 2010