Renaat Ramon, born in Bruges (BE). Poet, essayist, performer and visual artist: monumental sculptures, paintings, graphics, installations, furniture designs and architectural projects in the spirit of constructivism and minimalism.
Collaborator to Big Ode (PT), IZ (NL), Maintenant (NY) and Poëziekrant (BE). He published also visual poems among others in the reviews De Tafelronde, Radar, Gierik/NVT and Dighter. Collections of concrete and visual poetry: Ongehoorde gedichten / Poems unheard – of / Ungehörte Gedichte/Poème inaudite/Poèmes inouis (1997), Color-field poetry (1999), Zichtbare stem / Visible voice / Voix sisible/Sichtbare Stimme (2009), Lingua franca (2009), Nøtebøøk (2010), Apodicta (2013); essays on the relation between word and image and the concrete poetry of Theo van Doesburg (De Stijl) and H.N. Werkman (The Next Call). Klemteken, an anthology of his poetry selected and introduced by Jooris van Hulle, was published in 2012.
2014: Vorm & Visie. Geschiedenis van de concrete en visuele poëzie in Nederland en Vlaanderen (Form & Vision. History of the concrete and visual poetry in the Netherlands and Flanders).
Ramon as visual artist
'Ramons's art is the very antithesis of every figurative allusion and remains indifferent to the casual beauty of the forms found in nature. The artist indeed has always underlined that originality is to be the first aim of a creating artist. And it is this 'originality as poetical discipline' that has always lead him to new discoveries and to go beyond his limits. He has never been interested in anecdotes, nor been fascinated by the material itself. As he so often pointed out, the creative process is a well thought out and a mathematically elaborated concept. Some have described this work as abstract – an oversimplified and one-side approach – although we know that Theo Van Doesburg himself wrote that nothing is more concrete than a line, a surface, a shape, a colour when they aim at being nothing else but a line, a surface, a shape, a colour. This search for originality has always coincided with a search for purity and endless harmony and this attitude explains the severe simplicity of his geometrical language which has some points of contacts with 'minimal art' and 'primary structures'. The artist has a preference for elements and sober shapes such as squares and circles, spheres and cubes, quadrate prisms and cylinders. The attentive observer quickly discovers how rich the simplicity of these essential elements is. Indeed, in each work they are coming to a culminating point: tension between black and white, concave and convex, between immobility and motion, between vertical and horizontal. Finally they will find their monumental and aristocratic-serene balance in the total structure of the object. We already mentioned the 'real simplicity' of the language used by Ramon. The most striking examples are found in the reliefs. It's deepest expression we find in 'Porta Nigra'.
In the same way as the constructivists, Ramon has attached the greatest importance to the choice of the material. To give concrete form to what he once called 'the mathematical drawings in space', he needed immaculate 'detached' material such as steel and bronze, freestone and chromium-plated metal, and lately perspex, without doubt the less material of all. At the same time Ramon refuses to take part in the struggle with the material and therefore has never hesitated to have recourse to techniques and processes that are frequently used in industry. There the concept that he imagined is transformed into autonomous objects. His preference for these distant and cool materials and techniques is easy to understand when one knows his views on the relation between artist and his art. And although he considers originality as fundamental, he attaches less importance to the person who gives concrete form to the design: the idea, the concept is of primary importance.
After what has been said, one is inclined to think that the human aspect in the art of Ramon is minimal and that his work is hardly sensual. On the contrary: some of the works do by their conception invite to a playful and tactile contact and this is especially true of the composite works where the separate elements can be reassembled by the spectator.
The 'Ubus', for example consists of live identical U-elements that can be assembled tot the taste, or even stronger: to the creative insight of the spectator. Even the reliefs – by many considered as the more rigid exponent is his oeuvre – are designed in view of different uses. This playful aspect never detracts from the monumental character of the various objects. it rather seems to prove that monumentality is not an obstacle for playfulness.
We can for example see that even huge stone-carved works such as 'Correlatief I', 'Zwart Correlatief' and 'Wit Correlatief' are thanks to their two-folded structure not only correlative but also interchangeable.
"Those who know, don't talk, those who talk, don't know". Renaat Ramon who is not only a sculptor but also a poet, will certainly endorse this admission that words are feeble instruments. This is even more true where perfect domination of form, immaculate craftsmanship and intelligent playfulness result in signs that can only be given meaning in silence.
Ramon as visual poet
'A poet who acknowledges that the word has become a corpse and that whoever loves it will die of it, has little to fear from taking on language. Ramon strikes and robs it from its most dangerous weapon: the word. In the disenchantment he silently, speechlessly, codifies the remains into a sign of a separate myth, using mathematics: circle triangle and square; point and line.
His struggle in Noodweer (Heavy Weather / Self-Defence), a volume published in 1987, tackles transience, in the knowledge that the word will always escape from what it has to determine. It never coincides with the object. Ramon takes advantage of the poly-interpretability of words, which is the premise of modern poetry. he often does so with some metaphysical connotation, and not without any irony.
His scepticism about the incapacity of the word is shared by the concrete poets, who strive to restore the relation between meaning and image in language: language as a sign; formally constructive and only a symbol or a metaphor for neutral and objective content. Using the alphabet as a structural system, as opposed to the entropy of language in which the content fades and dissolves, the concrete and visual poets grasp the splinters of the word stem in a new order. The poems consolidate meaning, concentrated in the sign.
Ramon is a poet but also a sculptor: the two cannot be separated. As a poet, he is a sculptor reshaping language, using its plastic qualities as constructive materials. The content never was an aim in itself: meaning was the occasion for an absolute form to represent the universal, in which the visual aspect played a key role.
Ramon is a constructivist: proportion of measure in transfer of measure, 'est modus in rebus'. Following Horace's adage, both aspects are reduced to their essence in poem that do not make anything sound, do not represent anything, but can only be seen, and lead to insight. As sure as a straight line is the shortest distance between two given points. Ramon writes poetry in signs, irrefutably and undeniably. The poet has drawn the most farreaching conclusions from this evolution. Not only does he feel backed by the achievements of concrete and visual poetry – above all, he starts from the classical myth about the origin of the world, which in his view is not reduced to the word but to an arithmetic cosmic principle. Like a cosmographer, after the failure of physical language Ramon designs a system of signs on the substratum of the alphabet. Language, as in Chomsky, is the mirror of the mind. Its signs almost exclusively borrowed from the exact sciences.
The poem, language and numbers are related to each other. Ramon uses the resemblance between figures and letters, like the 0 and O, see 'o, Pascal', where the circle is raised tot the power of infinity, to define the universe as a sphere whose entre is everywhere, and whose circumference is nowhere. A ‘construct’ of idea and form, text and sign, code and icon.
The creative freedom enjoyed by the poet, in spite of or thanks to the limitation and condensation, is permeated by the desire for harmony, in which letter and figure, the absolute focal points in Ramon's codification, are measured against each other or mixed, in particular where they coincide visually. Figure and letter, absolute and objective signs, are the weights on the scales. The relatives proportion of their volumes constitutes the reference to the measure of things. This seldom is the human, i.e. subjective measure, but rather the conclusion of the Pythagorean' theorem a2+ b2 = c2, i.e. a continuum of equal relations within the circle or cycle. Ramon has also interpreted the Pythagorean theorem three dimensionally in sculptures and an architectural project.
Ramon sees the poem a an overall picture, deriving its meaning from itself, i.e. its structure, in shich plastic elements are balanced, in which a small deviation creates tension.
In several ways Ramon affirms that language is a fluid medium, and ought not to degrade into a fad. In 'postmodernism' he displays his scepticism towards a depleting language, and criticizes the system of self-repeating quotations. The ask of the poet is to create a different, new language, from the dust and building blocks offered by the media. In 'postlettrism he reunites dilapidated signs, geometrically: ordo ab chaos.
Ramon's poetry is exceptional and unprecedented. His verse brings up the question so that extent language can succeed in observing things and in observing the truth of things. To this end, he brings the (un)heard word tot the image and the figure tot the (un)thinkable number. Then, like all poets, Ramon arms himself against the strokes of inescapable time, the cross in the 'quadrature of death', also executed as a land art project.
Introduction to Ongehoorde gedichten / Poems unheard - of