Ron Arad’s Last Train

Ron Arad will showcase his extraordinary Last Train project, a theatrical piece of digital puppetry featuring the likes of Anthony Gormley, David Shrigley, and live from Beijing Ai Wei Wei, at this year’s Venice Biennale. 

A glimpse of one of the Last Train etchings
A glimpse of one of the Last Train etchings

The piece has been made for diamond company Steinmetz Diamonds.

When we heard Arad speaking about it at his House of St Barnabus talk, he said he was interested in diamonds ‘not because of their value or beauty but because of their strength.’

I’m not sure many have been seduced by the strength of diamonds, but it is indeed that property which has led to the creative development of this project.

Arad has been inspired by the memory of a man etching something on to the glass of a train window with a ring on his fist.

He puts it rather poetically and says, ‘I was going to catch the last train from Naples – I arrived on the platform just as the doors closed.

The train lingered a little and I saw that in an empty carriage there was a guy (I assume it was a guy) with a ring on his fist, doing the most amazing drawings on the glass. It reminded me of the images of Picasso drawing with a match in the air.

Although I didn’t know how I would get out of Naples that night, I felt like I was compensated for missing my train by witnessing some beauty that no one else had seen before. These pieces are about this memory.’

To demonstrate this wonderful conceit, a cast of Arad’s fist bejeweled with a diamond ring pokes out of a piece of cloth within a box – the ring poised against a clean piece of glass.

Meanwhile, using the Last train app, one of the artists Arad has called upon draws on an iPad with a stylus, which suddenly makes the hand spring into life and scratch a facsimile of the digital drawing into the glass.

Already Gormley, Shrigley, Francesco Clemente, Christian Marclay, Cornelia Parker, Richard Wilson, Sara Fanelli, Sue Webster, Tim Noble, Leandro Erlich and Gavin Turk have created works using the Last Train app, and many in the presence of the presence of the bejeweled fist etching their work in front of it.

On the opening night Javier Mariscal will draw live and Ai Wei Wei will scratch in real time from his home in Beijing.

Diamonds it seems have had this other purpose since glass panes were introduced in the 16th century. Indeed Queen Elizabeth was known to possess what she called a ‘promise ring’ or ‘scribbling ring’ used to scratch vows of love onto bottles and jars, according to Arad.  

Robert Burns scratched poems onto glass and of course today messages of love, hate, rebellion, anger, dissent and pain, can be found on panes everywhere.

The Last Train will be unveiled at Venice Biennale 2013 at a launch on 29 May prior to an exhibition which runs from 1 June – 24 November at Palazzo Cavalli, Franchetti, San Marco, Venice

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