When Nature and Design Make a Statement: Marcin Rusak at New York’s Twenty First Gallery
Gorgeous furnishings seldom provoke serious thoughts about the state of the world. An exception is Marcin Rusak’s Flora Noir collection of botanical-infused resin pieces now on display at Twenty First Gallery in Chelsea, until June 16. Working with waste flowers and plants and using casting and sanding techniques it took two years to perfect, this young Polish-born, London-based designer has produced alluring furnishings that draw both on the conceits of Dutch botanical paintings and Art Nouveau while questioning our notions about nature, value, consumption, and time.
Rusak’s research into plants began when he was still a student at London’s Royal College of Art. Charged with investigating an object that had significance to him, he selected a 17th century Dutch cabinet adorned with all manner of flora that was in his parents’ house. As part of his fieldwork he paid a visit to London’s flower market and was shocked by the masses of unsold blooms. As a design student captivated by new materials and processes, he decided to squeeze what last bits of color and splendor could be gotten from these discarded blossoms by printing them on silk. What resulted were Monet-like abstractions that gently fade in hue.
It was only when producing these textiles for his class that he realized his new fascination with flowers and their marketing was part of his long-forgotten heritage: his family had shut down their century-old flower business when he was a small boy! Such a connection only fueled his curiosity, leading him to research various aspects of the business as its run today. He was alarmed to discover that the water-intensive farming of the flowers sold in his local supermarket took place largely in water-scant Kenya and that the development of super long stem roses has drained the blooms of their scent.
Out of this fact-finding, which he considers essential to his design practice, he’s produced a series of flower-inspired collections. Flora Noir explores the tension between the permanent and ephemeral; the screen, console, tables and lights are made using two distinct techniques. The Flora Perma pieces are made from flowers trapped in resin and then machined to reveal cross sections of the blooms, rather like brilliant-colored fossils in stone, while the Flora Temporana pieces are crafted with some air in the resin, so that the encased flowers will eventually shrivel and die, becoming silvery forms with a halo of light around their original silhouette.
As covetable as these objects are, they speak with urgency about an industry, and world gone awry. “If I’m making another thing that’s going to exist in this world, it should either make sense or mean something,” says Rusak. Expect more beauty and wonder from this insightful and poetic young designer. He is a force for change.