Review of Paulius Rukas’s jewellery exhibition Metamorphosis
(Transl. Jonė Šulcaitė – Brollo)
Artist Paulius Rukas (born in 1977 in Klaipėda, now based in Vilnius) can be considered a master of jewellery reconstruction. Having started his career in 2013, P. Rukas have been actively participating in festivals and educational events held both in Lithuania and abroad. In 2016, Jewellery School Vilnensis awarded the jeweller the first category certificate, in 2017 he was awarded with the second category certificate and, in 2019, the third category certificate. P. Rukas is a member of “Pajauta” (Club of Experimental Archaeology) since 2017. In 2019, the artist started teaching at Jewellery School Vilnensis. The artist has presented his work in exhibitions and festivals in Lithuania, France, Poland and Spain (in 2015), Estonia (in 2016). His works have been acquired by the National Museum of Lithuania (Palace of the Grand Dukes of Lithuania), the Embassy of the Republic of Lithuania in the Kingdom of Spain and the Embassy of Japan in Lithuania .
While reflecting on P. Rukas’s work, fundamental questions about the jewellery phenomenon arise. The artist challenges us to choose one of the several ways to look at the art of jewellery: first, perceiving art as an object of aesthetic admiration, second, perceiving a piece of jewellery as an applicable, practical thing. It is a common understanding that some pieces of jewellery can be chosen for everyday wear, while others are chosen as adorning objects meant for special occasions; we call them evening jewellery (for example, an evening ring, evening earrings, etc.). Thus, some jewellery is worn simply as pieces of clothing, without it we might feel as if we are not fully dressed, while others highlight our character, display the mood of the moment and draw the gaze of those around us. That being said, it is important to remember that jewellery is socially engaged, by its nature. Like clothes, jewellery often plays a role of a visual sign that determines and influences the way we identify a person. Jewellery is also one of the arts most closely related to fashion. In jewellery lie possibilities for representation of power and authority. Fashionable jewellery can signify a certain level of wealth. The presence of precious metals and stones in jewellery worn by an individual indicates the individual’s material power and authority . This is relevant not only to the art of P. Rukas but also to the conceptual title of the exhibition.
The word “metamorphosis” makes up the title of the exhibition and is quite intimately addressed by the artist in his letter: “Metamorphosis involves the New Year phenomenon, my own transition, as an artist, from one field of art to another (from music to jewellery). […] The works on display even show a peculiar change in my historical replicas of the 2ndcentury, their application and their new meanings in modern design; […] in the very moment of transformation, the ancient techniques of metal plasticity are revived and applied” . It can be said that the artist is provoking us to not only admire his works but also rethink the transformations and changes related to the jewellery phenomenon.
I am most perplexed when looking at the articles of ancient jewellery restored, interpreted and adapted for today’s wear. When thinking about a piece of antient jewellery I tend to treat it more as a work of art, thus putting aside its meaning of a thing. P. Rukas’s attentiveness to history and its creative transference to the present day demonstrates that even the simplest, once merely fashionable thing with no aesthetic value whatsoever, over the years and centuries becomes valuable and more artistic than ever before. On the one hand, time adds value to jewellery just as it does to high quality aged wine; on the other hand, it is only a fine craftsman’s touch, with the power of transferring history to the present day, that gives jewellery even a greater value. This way, jewellery becomes a means to experience a vertiginous travel through time. A fine craftsman makes jewellery speak, much like a winemaker treating his most distinguished guests to an excellent, aged, mature wine, its odour instantly filling the room and intriguing the palate. Hence, even though P. Rukas’s works of jewellery are both applied and decorative, their significance of being a thing is increasingly fading, and its historical-artistic value is becoming more and more apparent. In this exhibition, art and history are engaged in a viable and harmonious dialogue.
P. Rukas succeeds in unlocking artwork’s contradictory nature; the nature about which such philosophers as Martin Heidegger (1889–1976) and Hans Georg Gadamer (1900–2002) have written wrote while elaborating the question of the origins of the artwork. They both tried to distinguish what separates works of art from a thing, that is, having a role of a piece of equipment. Eventually, the two thinkers, in their deliberations, have distinguished and applied two concepts: art as a thing and art as an object in which lies pure aesthetic delight . They both reached the same conclusion and favoured pure aesthetics without sparing it the epithets of admiration.
P. Rukas’s art is also engaged in a somewhat controversial dialogue. However, this dialogue is neutralized the very moment the artist’s gesture releases the work of jewellery as an accessory and brings it closer to the object meant for aesthetic admiration. The works of this artist are not stuck in people’s everyday interactions with objects and, in my opinion, this is precisely what makes this exhibition exceptional!
- Rukas, P. (2020-01-03). Kūrybinės veiklos aprašymas. Vilnius.
- Also see Venckus, R. (2009-05-28 – 2009-06-15). Alcheminiai padariniai: Vilniaus Dailės akademijos Telšių dailės fakulteto metalo plastikos studijų programos trečio kurso studentų juvelyrikos darbų ir kalvystės meno parodos recenzija. A galerija, Respublikos g. 33, Panevėžys. Online source: http://www.agalerija.lt/34-kreditai/menotyrininko-anotacija/ (žiūrėta 2015-03-18). Review available in author’s personal archive: http://culture.venckus.eu/daile/alcheminiai-padariniai/ (consulted 2020-01-03).
- P. Rukas’s email to R. Venckus, 2019-12-27.
- Gadamer H, Heidegger M., (2003) Meno kūrinio ištaka. Vilnius: Aidai.
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