Ralph Bakker works gold, silver, precious gems, pearls and enamel into his pieces; the technical books in his possession are all about jewelry; he has, with heart and soul, dedicated himself to the skill and magic of the goldsmith. In the late 80‘s and early 90‘s that was an unusual attitude for a young jewelry designer, particularly in the Netherlands. At that time critics were more concerned about the conceptual aspects of the ornament. Eventually everything rolled into place. For Ralph Bakker the jewel, with all it‘s traditions and connotations, became the concept of his work. That holds true for the rich colour combinations that he builds up with his materials, for the details in his complex jewelry, for the royal place he reserves for certain stones and foremost for the suggestive effect of the true jewel; in short, the pure seduction.
The underlying theme in all the work that he has exhibited in Galerie Lousie Smit is - the erotic. Sometimes hidden, sometimes explicit. Seduction is in one‘s mind, not only the body. His work is made for women, without consciously excluding men. For him the greatest satisfaction comes from enticing a woman to posses and to wear his jewelry.
I am one of those women. In 1991 I saw a necklace with boat-shaped links of blackened silver, the insides warmly dressed with gold leaf and each boat was set with a white shell. After sleeping on it for one night I knew I had to have that necklace. As an experienced art historian I knew the erotic symbolism of the almond¬shape as well as that of the shells with their tempting undersides. But as with all seduction, and perhaps most importantly, I could connect it to a story of my own.
The sensuality in the beautiful collars is ambiguous as well. They are strong in form even though they are made for that transitional place on the body, the sensitive area between neck and breast. From this position the effect of their subtle brilliance in relationship to the face is optimal. Stemming from an ancient tradition the chain mail links make these jewels into objects that willingly form themselves to the body. Brilliance is reciprocal, suppleness asks to be touched and traditions offer a starting point for one‘s own memories and fantasy. The adage, ‘‘beauty is in the eye of the beholder‘‘, holds more than true for Ralph Bakker‘s enticing jewelry.
Translation Maria Russo