Bloom tall: Botanical Artistry and Collage at Kubi Vasak’s upcoming Exhibition

TWS –Hi Kubi, please tell us something you’d like our readers know about you.

KV –I was born in Prague, Czech Republic and moved with my family to Sydney, Australia at a young age. My dad was a welder and my mum was an artist and graphic designer. I have two older sisters, one is an architect in Sydney and the other is a ceramic artist in Melbourne – you could say art and design is in our blood. It’s something that I didn’t really think about when I was younger but as I got older I accepted my creative destiny.

TWS –You’re both a designer and an artist working with collage. What came first? And how do these two things co-exist in your life? Are they separated things? Art definitely came first. 

KV –For many years I was working in the music industry, managing bands and doing public relations (which I had studied initially before graphic design). When I was working at a few different music labels they would get me to create promo material – a few single covers and posters done with a bootleg version of Photoshop. I was hooked. The art came easily but it was the layout and typography that I felt wasn’t quite right. “There must be more to learn,” I thought to myself. So I decided to leave the music industry and study Graphic Design. I’m glad I changed careers. l love what I do – 9-5 I work in a boutique advertising company and after hours and on weekends I work on my art and freelance art projects that come my way. Everything from magazine editorials to bigger commercial clients and also small businesses interested in collage-based imagery. I try and bring my creative ideas and artwork thinking into my design. I think having both art and design in my tool kit helps a lot with my process and everyday life. Especially with tricky clients haha. For example, I can’t always do analogue collage, so having the option to move, scale, re-colour, and duplicate elements is very helpful.

TWS –Please tell us about what collage means in conceptual terms to you? And how do you approach it in your practice? 

KV –Collage to me is life. I’m a very visual person. I see everything as some sort of expression of collage. I mean we all collage every day, our memories, the way we put on clothes, how we arrange food, how we organise our junk, the way we walk, the way we talk, the way we sing. Collage pieces it all together and for me it is the strongest communication there is. I approach my practice with an open mind and a willingness to learn and adapt. I’m very much interested in all types of art and how those movements and ideas weave their way into my own practice.

TWS –We’d like to know more about Bloom Tall, your latest exhibition. How did this series of work started? And how it was different from the previous work you’ve been doing? 

KV –During the COVID lockdowns of 2020, I started working on the Bloom Tall collection. I didn’t have the title back then but I had a good friend who is also a framer by trade, custom build me some large wooden panels to work on. The lockdowns were strange days but I used this time to explore a new direction in my approach to the art of collage; moving from a predominantly paper-based practice to large-scale mixed media compositions of form and colour. I started to experiment with mixing my own paint colours and creating on a larger scale. Previously, due to being a collage purist, I would only use original vintage material, which meant that my work was always small and detailed. What I loved about the new works is that I could really design and create anything I wanted to any scale. It’s been very freeing and exciting! 

TWS –Tell us about your technique?

KV –Well, my works go through several different processes. I first cut images from their original context (vintage books), then they are high-res scanned and recoloured. I then create the compositions and find the right colour combinations on the computer. Then the pieces are enlarged and re-printed; emphasising the texture in the offset printing process of the original cut out. I then collage, paint, collage, paint and add more paint to create my works. Layers upon layers!  They rarely come out as I initially designed them, once I start creating by hand, I love the process of chance and happy accidents which can happen when you create a collage or abstract painting.

TWS –Why plants? What do you find in plants that make you have them as the center of your work?  

KV –So my wife loves plants and I’ve learnt from her to care for and enjoy them too. She’s a landscape designer and over the years we have grown quite a large collection of plants. My work explores the connections that occur between people and plants, and the ways in which caring for plants extends beyond the home to connect with wider social and ecological concerns. Many studies have identified the positive impact that plants can have on people. They can improve mental health and during covid, I wanted to create work that would help people and make me feel good. Also they had to be pleasing to the eye haha.

TWS –And what about these particular plants you chose to work with? How did you source the images and what kind of relationship you have with these specific plants? 

KV –I used a lot of everyday plants that you can find in most homes and gardens in Australia. From Peace lily to Agave, mother in-law’s tongue and the curvy leaves of the Frangipani tree. All these plants make me feel at home and hold a sense of nostalgia. 

TWS –It seems that color has a very important place in this series of work you’re exhibiting. Can you expand on the use of color in your work and what role does it play?  

KV –Colour plays a huge role in the work. The colours have a specific job, depending on the composition and the complexity of those compositions. Sometimes I want the colours to jolt and oscillate against each other, while other times I want to create harmony and calmness. Each work uses different principles of colour theory but my main goal was to create balance while also expressing different emotions. The feelings you experience when viewing the colours are just as important as what you are seeing in the composition. It’s a balancing act which I hope entices the viewer.

TWS –You are part of the Sydney Collage Society. Can you share something about the collage scene in Sydney? What have you been up to lately? 

KV –So I started the SCS back in 2015 with my good friend and fellow artist Leah Ann Early, after we were in a group show together with other Sydney collage artists and artists from New York. I saw that NY had the Brooklyn Collage Collective and I wanted something similar for Sydney. Since we started we’ve had a group exhibition each year, worked on large-scale collages for festivals and have consistently run collage workshops. I’ve been running classes teaching the art of contemporary collage for many years now, including running a short course on collage which they teach at UNSW School of Art & Design. Recently, the SCS ran workshops at The Other Art Fair and created a large-scale collage for a new Sydney night festival. The collage scene is small but bubbling away under the surface. It’s great to be able to work on these projects and push the art of collage.

TWS –What’s the next challenge you’d like to face in your art practice? 

KV –Juggling being a new dad next month with making work! I’m sure it will provide plenty to fresh inspiration haha. But really I just want to keep creating and pushing the boundaries of my art practice. ‘Bloom Tall’ took me nearly 3 years to complete and it’s the longest time I’ve ever worked on a body of work. I usually work pretty fast when I make collage, so it taught me to be patient, take a step back, reflect and hopefully good things come from the process. 

Bloom Tall’ Opening Night – Thursday 18th May 6 – 8 pm
Rainbow Studios – 348 Liverpool St, Darlinghurst, Sydney
Exhibition dates: 18th of May – 1st June 2023
More about Kubi Vasak on his website or Instagram