The collection, [Prime]al, pushes boundaries, technically and creatively.
By: Suman Tarafdar
Posted on: September 8, 2023
It’s been just five years since Mumbai-based jewellers Studio Renn began showing their works, and already they are one of the more feted jewellers from India on the global arena. Their recent collection [Prime]al – which encapsulates some of the values creators Rahul and Roshni Jhaveri hold dear, was shown in Delhi earlier this month. Comprising about 70 pieces, the collection uses an unusual amalgamation of materials, including gold, diamonds and gemstones.
[Prime]al, arguably best described as an ode to significance of abstraction, has already been showcased at a number of prestigious venues, including Bergdorf Goodman NYC and Sotheby’s amongst others.
The collection started with the study of indigenous art, explains Rahul Jhaveri. “It’s a study that I started a few years ago. It’s through that study that we started to focus more on how the works were created rather than what you were making. We use the same abstraction while creating these works.” The collection builds on the premise that abstraction is the most instinctive reaction to the world around us. Agrees Roshni Jhaveri, who says, “Abstraction is an approach to design, abstraction in this collection led to a distinct design language and aesthetic that is our own. Imperfections are often looked upon as a negative, but there is a wonderful beauty in them too. The Puffball Voids collection allows us to show that beauty in incompleteness.”
Rahul Jhaveri’s interest in indigenous art is longstanding. “We first started off studying indigenous artists in India by including works of Bhajju Shyam and Jivya Soma Mashe and his son Sadashiv. I had also studied African indigenous art and realised there was a common thread throughout all those works. The artists were trying to communicate very complex ideas through very simple forms. There was a certain purity to it, clarity to the works. It’s the same process that we try to follow. In certain works like in Cacti, we have abstracted a cactus to represent protection – a lot of houses in rural India have cacti around them, not to demarcate the land, but to protect the food. So, we are protecting what is truly worth protecting. For me now, a cactus is a symbol of protection.”
"Even a small child’s simplistic drawing has some purity to it – it’s abstracting a human form."
Another highlight of the collection for Rahul Jhaveri is Fish, which “for us represents abundance, sustenance. There’s another collection, Seed which represents cyclicity. It’s meant to be a seed and a leaf at the same time. The focus in that work is not on the diamond or the gold, but the reflections inside of the diamond and the gold.” Incidentally, Seed was also part of a show in Los Angeles that Sotheby’s had put together on a woman’s right to pleasure. “We were the only jewellers who were part of it,” points out Rahul Jhaveri.
As he explains, for him the focus is on the process. “It also includes indigenous tattoo artists who just use simple forms, lines that signify important ideas. It’s not necessarily the forms but the process. A conclusion came out of it, a realisation that the most instinctive reaction to the world around us is to abstract it. Even a small child’s simplistic drawing has some purity to it – it’s abstracting a human form.”
[Prime]al’s source is also a poem, Eyes Open, which builds on the name ‘Renn’, meaning reborn, or rebirth. The Studio explores concepts and perspectives, and recreates the world of abstract ideas, objects and feelings. Unlike one time design collections by many in the creative sectors, [Prime]al will be a continuing collection. “For us it is not a static kind of entity, it’s a way of thinking we have internalised. And these studies constantly evolve. When we start making something, we do not think we want to make a certain quantity of any particular work. Other works are edition works as well, they are mostly editions of three or five.”
"In [Prime]al, we have used hard stone for the first time."
The works within [Prime]al express the complexity and importance of ideas of protection, cyclicity, fertility, myths of creation and perceptions of time and space. Simple abstracted forms in gold, diamonds and gemstones have been used to convey these ideas.
The way the materials are used in the collection are fascinating. “In [Prime]al, we have used hard stone for the first time. We’ve used black onyx, collaborating with a lapidary artist based out of Ida Rubenstein in Germany to see how we could treat stone the way it’s never been treated before by making it appear as if it's squeezed, twisted, hollowed out, having sharp edges, folded... Claw (another piece in the collection) kind of is using material that has been used in jewellery quite a bit, but in a different way.”
Do note the use of onyx, diamonds, rubies, sapphire (from Burma) and emeralds (from Zambia), especially how the quality of the sheen is so distinct from the way many other jewellers have used them.
Incidentally, Rahul Jhaveri refers to most of the creations as works rather than jewellery, though shrugging off the suggestion that it could be termed as art. “Jewellery for us is just a medium, maybe the most accessible medium we have, it is why we are using it to express ourselves. All our works are ongoing studies – the works are physical manifestations of it. While to a certain extent I would say the works are created for the sake of creation for them to exist. It’s why we try to create this kind of immersive spaces where we invite people to enter our world and try to look at things in a different light. Doesn’t have to be through our lens, but it’s through a different lens. Whether the works are for them or not is up to them, but at least give them the time. That’s what happens with our collectors who connect to a certain work even though we might not be in touch. But the connection that you make just stays.”
The exhibit was designed in collaboration with leading architecture practice Case Design. Interpreted using indigenous materials and techniques such as wood, rock and bamboo, the space transformed into an immersive environment to express the idea of [Prime]al.
Prestigious accolades have included their acid-treated concrete ‘Strangler’ ring, which was recognised in the innovation category of Couture Las Vegas in 2021, while they were named the ‘Best Hidden Gem’ at the Wallpaper Design Award earlier this year. Given how limited each of the works are, and the collectors have homed on to their works, if a work has appeal for you, best not to wait!