I met Ruth Gurvich in France where she has been living for more than 30 years. She generously opened to me the doors of his luminous atelier on the outskirts of Paris on a warm, sunny morning in August. Ruth has left very young to the French capital where she studied Fine Arts, after having studied a couple of years of Architecture and having obtained a Fine Arts diploma at the University of Córdoba, her hometown.
Paper is her favorite material, the starting point and thread of her explorations with different techniques and materials. Ruth exploits its many characteristics. Its texture, its thickness, its flexibility and lightness, its grain, its malleability and porosity. On paper, she draws with pencil and paints with watercolor. She measures it, cuts it, folds it, reinforces it with glue and cardboard, composing volumes. She delicately constructs objects with paper that replicate cultural symbols (such as the chairs of Marcel Breuer or Le Corbusier, a plane, Chinese or French antique porcelains) in that way they are lighten and free of the weight of history. They lose their utilitarian function. Later she crushes them evidencing the disorder, the human frailty. She performs a decoding of senses to build a new encoding. These objects, squashed and framed as paintings, nevertheless retain a three-dimensionality, a volume that is their own.
This deconstruction led her to another gesture: the construction of prototypes on paper as models for porcelains. In 2004, Gurvich began to work with this millennial material within the framework of residences that took place in Limoges, France. Some years later, and up to the present, she continues the work in porcelain in collaboration with the German Manufacture of Nymphenburg. Ruth rediscovers new perspectives and possibilities offered by porcelain, and she questions its fragility linked to the feminine and domestic world. In this passage from paper to porcelain, the classic forms, such as plates, teapots or fountains, are geometrized by conserving the facets of the form built on paper. Ruth decides if they have a matte finish, called biscuit, with which they absorb the shadows or if they are enameled, they shine reflecting the light like a painting. Every detail is thought in the work of the argentian artist.
Collection Lighstcape émaille. Service de porcelaine édité par la Manufacture de Nymphenburg, Munich, Allemagne © Nymphenburg
Ruth transits from one material to the other, from one technique to another, from one craft to another, she comes and goes with an admirable naturalness. It seems that stop her in her way that crosses transversally categories and labels. She escapes any classification, and does not respect pre-established limits.
Gurvich’s work dissolves the boundaries between art / crafts / decorative arts imposed by the canonical « History of Art »’s hegemonic narrative. He questions those watertight categories by exhibiting his pieces in museums that are not of Fine Arts, Modern Art or Contemporary Art proposing unexpected crossings between disciplines. «The first time I exhibited in the Museum of ceramics in Limoges [France] in 2002 were paper objects, not porcelain. At that time my work was only on paper. »Gurvich alters the boundaries between the genres, carries out a disturbance of codes. The Museum of Decorative Art and Design of Bordeaux acquired its vases on paper. The Decorative Arts Museums of Paris and Lyon exhibited her works in porcelain and paper. In his work a “dialectical contemporaneity” is put into play, in the words of Claire Bishop, which has anything to do with presentist and fashionable contemporary art endorsed by the art market. Unfolding multiple temporalities Ruth circulates around the margins of these mercantile circuits and disrupts the interpretations crystallized by the history of art.
Her early studies in architecture leads Ruth to appropriate space, to occupy it, to make it her own. She thinks how the work will look in space, in relation to other objects. “When I started making the objects, I made three models of plates that I needed to put together the group … When I do the works I think from the point of view of the spectator, I think how they are going to see everything. I never think of the vase as a single object, isolated. I always need the group. » Ruth is very aware of the idea of ??still life when projecting these sets of objects. «I still think about the still lifes of Chardin, Fantin Latour, and Morandi, I think of them when I make my porcelains. In fact, I make those porcelains because they are in the pictures». In this way, she projects a staging, a spatial arrangement of the objects.
His link with the craft, the craft savoir-faire is committed, Gurvich investigates and learns thoroughly each of the technical procedures that interest her. The work with the artisans of the different historical manufactures is a complex team work: «I learned to deal with the difficulty of working with artisans who often do not understand or share my artistic vision. You have to reach agreements and make concessions. Little by little I understood how to work with them ». Gurvich brings to light the making, the production process, that is why in the porcelains she paints the numbers corresponding to the measurements written in pencil on the paper model. With an intention to make visible the structure of the object and to investigate “the mystery of things”.
The material dimension in Ruth’s work is unavoidable. The material is protagonist, this artist makes speak each material, she respects the condition of each material: paper, metal, porcelain, leather, textile. This is where, following the French philosopher Louis Marin, lies the strength of his production: in the opacity of self-representation, that is to say, of the object that is presented as representing and constituting the person looking at it as a subject looking.
In front of her work our certitudes collapse, nothing is what it seems. The landslides dislodge us. Her work in continuous movement oscillates between form and ornament, fragility and permanence, between the coldness of geometry and human disorder, matter and form. Ruth Gurvich teaches us to interrogate naturalized truths and challenges us to walk through the margins of the unquestionable.