“I have simply married these archetypes” – Joe Ramirez and “The Gold Projections”

Im Rahmen der Ausstellung “Alchemie. Die große Kunst” zeigt der amerikanische Künstler Joe Ramirez seine Arbeit “The Gold Projections” im Kulturforum. Ein Gespräch über die Arbeit, ihre Inspirationen und das Zusammenspiel der Kunstformen. (english)

Joe, what is your background as an artist?
Joe Ramirez: I studied painting and film at the Art Institute of Chicago and sculpture at the Royal College of Art in London. I also worked for monastic orders as a painter and I had the privilege of studying early medieval techniques including fresco making and gilding that became essential to develop “The Gold Projections”.

What inspired your work “The Gold Projections” and are there any particular artists or works that you refer to in your work?
I was in the Sistine Chapel and as I was being pulled up on the elevator I saw Michelangelo’s paintings „in motion“. After that experience, for many years I tested projecting moving images on the right type of gold surface that I learned to prepare following centuries-old traditions. My training as filmmaker was then naturally integrated with these ancient techniques. So the work derives from the early renaissance, with Giotto and Fra Angelico, but also from later influences, like Blake, Goya, to contemporaries Tarkovsky and James Turrell.

Joe Ramirez in his Studio. Photo: Michael Carstens
Joe Ramirez in his Studio. Photo: Michael Carstens

Why did you decide to work with the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin for this project?
When I met Jörg Völlnagel, the curator of the exhibition, it quite naturally occurred to both of us that “The Gold Projections” had to be shown at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin. He instantly understood the work thanks to his expertise on history of art combined with alchemy. Also, the museum has an extensive collection of paintings that resonate with the themes of “The Gold Projections”. On the one hand, behind the wall of the large disk of “The Gold Projections” are masterpieces in painting; on the other hand, the disk faces the direction of the Berlinale Festival. So, having “The Gold Projections” at the Staatliche Museen zu Berlin during the Berlinale is some sort of ‘meeting point’, a still point that encompasses these visual languages, the moving image and painting.

What exactly will happen in “The Gold Projections”?
There are going to be three stages to the show. First, the gilding of the large disk, so that people can see the process behind creating the surface receiving light; every 30 minutes or so a section of Somnium will show on a smaller disk facing the gilding; then the complete showing of Somnium, which is a dream odyssey of sorts inspired by Johannes Kepler’s eponymous piece, the first piece of science fiction in the West.

What were the biggest challenges in working on this project?
One big challenge was having patience to achieve the project’s completion. Asking forgiveness for breaking every rule in process and protocol! It’s difficult or nearly impossible to explain “The Gold Projections” without witnessing them first hand. But this is now changing.

“The Gold Projections” are a prologue of the exhibition “Alchemie. Die große Kunst” – where do you see the connection between this particular work and the topic of alchemy?
One of the themes of alchemy is transformation, and I believe all artists have their own alchemical process through which they set their ideas and feelings in motion, whatever their medium. The Gold Projections are related to alchemy more specifically because they are the result of a 12-year process that involves painting, film, medieval techniques, and – most importantly – dreaming and working with the alchemical images that have been the ‘traditional’ visual language. I have simply married these archetypes with the use of time.

“The Gold Projections” is part of the exhibition “Alchemy. The great Art” from April 6th to July 27th 2017. // “The Gold Projections” ist Teil der Ausstellung “Alchemie. Die große Kunst” vom 6. April bis 27. Juli 2017.

Titelbild: Radoslaw Kowalczyk

Joe Ramirez: Somnium, Video still, 2016 © Joe Ramirez
Joe Ramirez: Somnium, Video still, 2016 © Joe Ramirez
Joe Ramirez: Somnium, Video still, 2016 © Joe Ramirez
Joe Ramirez: Somnium, Video still, 2016 © Joe Ramirez
Joe Ramirez: Somnium, Video still, 2016 © Joe Ramirez
Joe Ramirez: Somnium, Video still, 2016 © Joe Ramirez
Joe Ramirez: Somnium, Video still, 2016 © Joe Ramirez
Joe Ramirez: Somnium, Video still, 2016 © Joe Ramirez
Joe Ramirez: Somnium, Video still, 2016 © Joe Ramirez
Joe Ramirez: Somnium, Video still, 2016 © Joe Ramirez

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