The exhibition is part of a prize awarded to Rusak by Champagne house Perrier-Jouët, which each year champions an artist whose work evokes the brand’s Art Nouveau heritage. Rusak, who also receives a grant of £10,000, regards the Perrier-Jouët Arts Salon Prize as a sort of modern form of patronage. It’s an opportunity, he says, “to create new work and show it to a wider range of people, which is ultimately what everyone wants”. Central to Rusak’s practice is the notion of ephemerality. Works such as Perishable Vase and Waste Flower Textile are temporary by their very nature. Created from organic constituents, they break down over the course of time, changing shape, fading away or even sprouting new life from old. “I’m interested in the way that objects are even more precious to us when we know that they won’t last forever,” says Rusak. It’s not just the flowers that are ephemeral – in other areas of Rusak’s work, it’s time itself that is fleeting. Time for Yourself, for example, takes as its premise the idea that modern life – with all its gadgets and connectivity – prevents us from ever really clocking off. Created from luxurious materials, including cashmere and silver, the work is a beautifully crafted “tool-kit” designed to “help you get lost on purpose”, says Rusak. Currently on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum as part of the exhibition What Is Luxury?, Time for Yourself asks questions about what, in the modern world, we value most and why.
RE-EVALUATING THE VALUE OF OBJECTS
It’s fitting that Rusak should be represented in an exhibition celebrating fine craftsmanship because his portfolio is full of the stuff. A recent project with Bute Fabrics, a Scottish textile designer and manufacturer established in 1947, celebrates the intensive multi-stage process by which craftsmen and women create even the most basic of Bute’s fabrics. A 2013 commission from the French silversmith Puiforcat does something similar with unfired clay, plaster and pewter. Craftsmanship is “really important to me,” says Rusak. “I work a lot with materials and do most of my work myself.” While many artists are drawn to the same materials again and again, his is a remarkably diverse practice. Resin, steel, clay, wood, acrylic, even light itself, are pulled into play, “depending on the story I’m trying to tell, on the process and how the materials are performing. It is never decided from scratch.”
The ultimate aim, whatever the materials or the processes employed to shape them into artworks, is to “engage people in this way of thinking, where we have to take care of the things around us a little more,” says Rusak. “People tell me, ‘I love the vase but can you make it last longer?’ And I say, ‘Yes, you can, but it really depends on how its treated.’ It makes it an interesting junction for me, where something you want to keep can’t live up to your expectations.”