Futuro Brillante, Van Riel Gallery
Ciudad de Buenos Aires, Argentina. Curator: Horacio Dabba. Text: Laura Isola, 2016

The Lady of the Rings, by Laura Isola

Plato resorts to the legend of the ring of Gyges to explain that all people are of an unjust nature. He attributes to Glaucon the recounting of the story of this shepherd, named Gyges, who found a bronze horse and a corpse at the bottom of an abyss following a storm and an earthquake. The corpse wore a golden ring, which the shepherd decided to keep. However, Gyges did not know that it was a magic ring. Every time he twisted it on his finger, he became invisible. Once he verified the powers of the ring, Gyges used it to seduce the queen and, with her help, murder the king and take possession of his kingdom. Book II of The Republic contains this account, which evidences that we are only just because we fear to be punished by law or we want to obtain some benefit from such good behavior. If we were “invisible” to the law, like Gyges with the ring, we would be unjust owing to our nature.

“Three Rings for the Elven-Kings under the sky. Seven for the Dwarf-Lords in their halls of stone. Nine for Mortal Men doomed to die. One for the Dark Lord in his dark throne, in the Land of Mordor where the Shadows lie.” This is J.R.R. Tolkien’s version in The Lord of the Rings where, with the complexity of an immense and complicated saga, he highlights that the One Ring seemed to be a regular golden ring but it was impervious to any kind of destruction but the fires of Mount Doom, the volcano located in the land of Mordor, written in Tengwar characters on inside and outside the Ring and which symbolizes its power of control on the other powerful rings: “One ring to rule them all. One ring to find them, one ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them”.

Facing up to the rings is, then, confronting their magic powers—those that come from the circle as a perfect shape—and the judgments arising from their qualities: the absolute power that, by being invisible or indestructible rings, subjects men to an extreme situation.

Rings in Cynthia Cohen’s paintings are made out of these aspects. Out of the perfection of the faceted surface of the stones that make them up, of such reflections that are amazing. Out of such size, of such astronomical scale, that throws them outside the human sphere: they are jewels for monsters’ hands. Huge pieces blended with the ambiguity of what is beautiful and what is despicable come to show their hidden mysteries. The jewels are set with the good and the bad. Sparkling for consumption and opaque in their meanings: commitments, presents, blackmail, revenge, promises.

A structure that contains everything. That refers to the infinite with its circumference, to sagas that used it as a talisman, to the legend of the king who had one with the phrase “this too shall pass” inscribed, an antidote against times of desperation, and to the one forged by the Nibelung with gold from the bed of the Rhine river to have supreme power.

Or that of the song entitled Capitán Beto [Captain Beto], chauffeur of an existential drive in a lost city, because “his ring makes him immune to dangers/but does not protect him from sadness/plowing through the galaxy of men/there goes Captain Beto, wandering./They took many years to find him/Beto’s ring had a sign of soul inscribed”.

Laura Isola, 2016