MEET MARCIN RUSAK
After seeing the works of Marcin Rusak, Juli Bolanos-Durman, and Joseph Harrington for the first time in 2016, I’ve spent my time reliving the British Edit event held at the One Hotel Penthouse, during Art Basel. Showcasing the works of many talented artists, a few pieces really resonated with me, and I’ve been following their works ever since. One of the pieces that stuck out the most in my mind was the Flora Table Lamp; upon first glance you appreciate it for its beautiful design and marble base... Until Yelena Ford went in depth about the base, to everyone’s surprise it wasn’t marble at all! But resin infused with living flowers, and if you took a closer look, you see the bubbling effect from the flowers breathing, mind-boggling. I finally worked up the courage to ask for an interview, and he obliged. Now, we get a chance to learn a little bit more about how he thinks.
* This is the question I always begin with, as I feel it’s the first step into knowing where it all began.
1. What was your first interaction with art / design, that you remember?
A piece that deeply stuck in my mind, is a carved wooden wardrobe, that I grew up with. I remember being very intrigued by its beautiful floral motifs. As many artists and designers before me I find nature to be an aesthetic master and an incredible source of inspiration.
2. Did it play a role, if any, in who you are as an artist and person?
From my family flower business, to traditional works of art and craft that rely heavily on floral motifs, we, the human race, seem to have an enduring obsession with flowers. This interest was sparked further by my trip to the London flower market and witnessing the huge amount of discarded flowers lying around. I started collecting and processing them - as a reference to how often we use nature as inspiration in creating decoration but how rarely we actually use nature itself as decoration. This led to printing textiles with flowers in a self developed analogue technique and extending their lives by another couple of months or years as a print. And it was only the beginning of my journey.
3. I read that both your mother and grandfather grew flowers, which I’m sure helped inspire the Flora Collection, but how did the thought of combining flowers with resin come about?
My family was growing flowers for a couple of generations, since 1904 but I was born at the time when the whole business was shut down. My mother was the first one not to continue the tradition, however not out of her own will. Although I never experienced the full flower growing process, the postindustrial landscape of abandoned glasshouses was my childhood playground. I imagine that flowers were always part of my life.
The inspiration for the Flora Collection comes mostly from my investigation into natural decoration but also into objects that have some kind of life on their own, where they change or evolve visually over time. In suspending floral and vegetal matter within resin, I allow the material to retain its authentic and genuine qualities.
4. Once you created the process, how did that turn into lighting, coffee tables, and even a cabinet?
Once flowers fulfill our decorative or symbolic needs, they become an unwanted and discarded reminiscence of life. Treated and processed, they regain some significance and become part of a work which either refers to their very temporary nature, or they are used as decoration itself - revealing their potential to create patterns (like in the Flora Lamp /Flora Screen). Flora Collection is another avenue in using the potential of waste flowers and creating something of value and hopefully some kind of natural aesthetic which can make us want to keep those objects for longer.
I had this sense that there was a logic to employing actual natural material, in this case flowers, as the source of aesthetics to make objects that have greater meaning, literally cast within them, as well as the ability to transcend our fickle and fleeting tastes.
5. When creativity and deign is your profession, do you find yourself getting “stuck” creatively, if so, how do you get “unstuck”?
Work is something that drives me everyday, I don’t really have time to be stuck. There is too much going on! I am very passionate about what I am doing. I try to investigate things that have a great meaning to me- ephemerality, value and consumption. Creatively that is my everyday fuel.
6. This may seem like a really silly question, but overtime do the flowers wilt and change the design completely? Do the pieces have a “life-span”?
For Flora material, the main concept was to create an ageing material. Something that evolves with time, makes us want to keep it and be the witness to this change. Overtime flowers within resin start shrinking creating a silvery tone around them.
Ageing of Flora material could be compared to other materials like brass, which oxidises, or leather that wears and gains character with time.
Perishable pieces (Perishable Vases, 2014-2017) reflect on the consumerism culture, their ephemeral quality is achieved through the material they are made of – organic waste (flowers), shellac, beeswax and resin (at times also our, sugar or sand are incorporated). Through natural conditions such as (high) temperature and humidity the objects start to transform - they melt, collapse and rot. Just like objects of everyday use, which are often designed with planned obsolescence (printers, phones, cars), these sculptures also have a limited lifespan dictated by the natural processes that overtake them. Perishable pieces is thus an installation in constant flux that completes itself in the process. It was important for me to highlight the process of decay and make it equal to the process of transformation and creation. To make it an experience where impermanence, change and chance are celebrated. It initiates this almost uncomfortable desire of wanting to preserve it, no matter what. It creates a nonphysical relation which lasts as long as we consciously foster it. I strongly believe, it is the objects we value that will outgrow the everyday and become representatives of our times.
7. Were you prepared for how successful this collection would be?
This was completely unexpected. This journey is an everyday challenge.
8. Do you think the success of the collection will make it move on to a completely different medium/ collection? Or are you comfortable in this niche you created?
I am in the process of exploring different avenues. Experimenting and playing with different materials. I think the meaning of functionality varies in terms of my work. I see the function in my objects being perishable - as it helps to create awareness of the existence of the object in the first place.I also always thought that perishing and decaying elements from nature are much more interesting aesthetically as they represent change, they show some transitional stage which for me represents life, which is never still. I can’t wait to explore this further!
9. Your work is very specific and unique, do you design for yourself first, or do you have an audience in mind.
Specificness and the uniqueness of the design, I think comes mostly from the materiality. The material was always more important as well as the research. Usually the process and experimentation leads to different solutions of how we present the material. For example Flora Screen helped us to juxtapose big surfaces of resin and the cross sections of flowers trapped inside.
10. Can you tell us something that people don’t know about you, that you would want people to know?
I work with people who are close to my heart. It is very important for me that people around me enjoy themselves and are passionate about what they are doing. I am also a family guy. I am very close with my family, and I visit them, as often as I can. My dad helps me with managing the production. My sister who has her own business and makes flower installations, helps me with flower collection.
11.Finally, if you could give advice to your younger self, what would it be?