Ron Arad with his piece, 'Everyone Woz Ere', 2013
Ron Arad's 'Last Train', commissioned by Steinmetz Diamonds, debuts at Venice Biennale tomorrow. Inspired by a man etching a message on a train window pane with a diamond ring, Arad invited several artist friends to do the same. Arad designed a diamond ring on a prototype fist, linking this to an iPad app to form a drawing tool. A series of 12 digital etchings makes up the piece. Pictured, Ron Arad with his piece, 'Everyone Woz Ere', 2013
(Image credit: TBC)

Architects and artists are often asked to create jewels. A fresh design perspective is always a good thing but it's tricky with jewellery design because there is a flawed consensus that anyone can do it.

Which is why Ron Arad's Last Train, commissioned by Steinmetz Diamonds and unveiled at midday tomorrow at the 55th Venice Art Biennale, is a refreshing take. Rather than stick to the notion of jewellery as simply a form of adornment, Arad has approached diamonds in the way that the great jewellery houses do - as a great base material from which to create wondrous objects.

'My interest is not in the bling or the value of diamonds but in the strength of the material,' Ron Arad told us just before he left for Venice last week.

For Last Train, Arad worked with Steinmetz to design a diamond ring that also works as a drawing tool. Then he invited several of 'friends', including artists Francesco Clemente, Christian Marclay and David Shrigley, to produce works by 'scratching' on a pane of glass with the ring, which is affixed to a plaster cast of Arad's fist and controlled by an iPad app.

The concept came about when Arad, having watched a missed train pull out of the station in Naples, spotted a man etching on the window pane with a diamond ring. 'In every train ride there is a lot of love and hate on the panes of windows,' Arad said of his inspiration. 'They are almost invisible but when you apply light to them then you discover a word or drawing.'

The ring is a powerful cross of bold diamond studs with a somewhat unrefined aesthetic.  'Elizabeth I used her diamond ring to scratch love vows on bottles,' Arad explains, though the fact that it reflects jewellery design of this era is accidental. 'I am not a jewellery designer or stylist, so the purpose of the ring implied the look,' he says. 'It is designed as a cross and the diamond at the junction is the one that is doing the work.'

Though the romance of diamonds was not an inspiration, Arad also told us a secret. Not only has he 'never scratched on a train window', the work also nearly never made it to Venice and he was almost the victim of a heist. 'Someone decided to help themselves to my fist,' Arad reveals. 'It was on a cardboard box ready to go to Venice. We had three minutes of fear and then we found it stuck in between the rails of a gate. We were not worried about the diamonds but there would be no Biennale show without the fist…'

Watch Ron Arad creating 'Everyone Woz Ere'

a fist with a ring on

The Steinmetz diamond ring that Arad designed to be worn on a prototype fist and linked to an iPad drawing tool

(Image credit: TBC)

drawing of hand with ring on finger

Arad's sketch of the ring, which takes the form of a cross. 'The diamond at the junction is the one that is doing the work,' he explains

(Image credit: TBC)

a plaster cast

To create the elaborate drawing tool, a plaster cast of Arad's fist was made

(Image credit: TBC)

a fist going through something

The prototype fist, adorned with Arad's diamond ring, pokes through a black cloth which is hidden behind a glass screen, on which glowing lines are then scratched to create the artworks

(Image credit: TBC)

drawing of a fist and a fist

The drawing machine, with an exposed view of the mechanism in action

(Image credit: TBC)

drawing of a person

'Field' by Antony Gormley, 2013

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someones hand pressing a ring into a light

The mechanised fist etches out the starting lines of Antony Gormley's artwork for the 'Last Train'

(Image credit: TBC)

drawing of a person

'Time To Reflect' by David Shrigley, 2013

(Image credit: TBC)

Watch David Shrigley creating his digital etching for 'Last Train'

a drawing of a hand

'For Ron Arad' by Francesco Clemente, 2012

(Image credit: TBC)

someone on a device

Francesco Clemente applies a scratching technique to his drawing

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This video of Francesco Clemente's artwork process demonstrates the mechanism of the drawing tool

'4T2' by Richard Wilson

'4T2' by Richard Wilson

(Image credit: TBC)

'Record' by Christian Marclay, 2013

'Record' by Christian Marclay, 2013

(Image credit: TBC)

Watch Christian Marclay's 'Record' etching come to life

Tim Noble and Sue Webster took a unique approach to their creation with the use of a blindfold

'Portrait Of My Wife Blind' by Tim Noble & Sue Webster

'Portrait Of My Wife Blind' by Tim Noble & Sue Webster

(Image credit: TBC)

'Portrait Of My Blind Husband' by Tim Noble & Sue Webster

'Portrait Of My Blind Husband' by Tim Noble & Sue Webster

(Image credit: TBC)

Ai Wei Wei, one of the 12 artists enlisted for 'Last Train', works on the drawing tool

the text glass 4 times

'Window' by Leandro Erlich, 2013

(Image credit: TBC)

the text One Day This Glass Will Break

'One Day This Glass Will Break' by Cornelia Parker, 2013

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text thiss glass and a fist behind

'One Day This Glass Will Break' by Cornelia Parker, 2013

(Image credit: TBC)

Former Wallpaper* Guest Editor Robert Wilson was also enlisted by Arad to create a drawing for 'Last Train'. Watch his work unfold

two people observing something

Arad looks on at Wilson's piece, 'a HYMN hymning HiM A dRAWing for Ron a.'

(Image credit: TBC)

someone on a device and a drawing

Shrigley summed the 'Last Train' up when he said, in an email to Arad on 21 March, 'I think it's a really nice project: taking a memory and creating a machine in order to re-create it'

(Image credit: TBC)

ADDRESS

Palazzo Cavalli Franchetti
San Marco
Venice

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Caragh McKay is a contributing editor at Wallpaper* and was watches & jewellery director at the magazine between 2011 and 2019. Caragh’s current remit is cross-cultural and her recent stories include the curious tale of how Muhammad Ali met his poetic match in Robert Burns and how a Martin Scorsese Martin film revived a forgotten Osage art.