Ron Arad’s Last Train kicked off a year ago at the Venice Art Biennale and has collected a few more passengers en route to London. What began as a one-off show at the biennale has become an ongoing project, with new works included in an exhibition at Arad’s studio in Camden, London opening 27 June.
Last Train began as an app that the Israeli-born designer created to collaborate with designers and artists. They were asked to create an artwork on an iPad with a stylus, which was simultaneously then scratched into a glass pane by a disembodied mechanical fist wearing a Diacore diamond ring. The diamond echoed every stroke of their illustration or words and brought to life their markings in real time. The resulting engravings were then exhibited by Arad. The exhibition-turned-project seeks to reveal the strength of a diamond rather than its monetary value and status as adornment.
Collaborators this time round include Ai Weiwei, Javier Mariscal, Grayson Perry, Antony Gormley, Sue Webster and Tim Noble, and Francesco Clemente.
The inspiration behind Last Train stems from the way in which diamonds have often been used as messages of love, hate, rebellion or pain: from Elizabeth I, who scratched love vows on bottles and jars with her “promise ring”, to Robert Burns who scratched poems onto glass panes, to thousands of anonymous travellers who regularly scratch train windows with anger, love and dissent.
The app enabled the participation of contemporary Chinese artist and activist Weiwei, who created his piece while under house-arrest in Beijing. His contribution is a characteristically provocative rendition of the words "Fuck Your Motherland" in different languages. Spanish artist and designer Mariscal drew a humorous portrait of Arad while eccentric British ceramicist Grayson Perry took a look inside the typical designer's psyche.
It’s amazing to watch how each artist took to it in such a different way – from a self-portrait, to some totally abstract scrawlings, to conceptual art. The spontaneous effect is interesting. There’s no going back; no rubbing out or painting over, says Arad.
All of the artworks will be on show in the exhibition at Arad's studio.