Collage artist, Kubi Vasak, speaks to RECKON Mag about the ‘random act of finding;’ a practice which has informed his work and his connections to his art family. No man is an island.

So you’re Czech?
Originally. Birthplace is Prague, Czech Republic. I arrived when I was 6, it’s been more than 20 years. It’s interesting, I love meeting Czech people. I speak Czech but if I don’t talk to my Dad or my sisters (for a while), I just won’t speak Czech for months. So when I hear it on the street, I’m like “Aw, I just want to stop that person and be like “Hey, I’m Czech!” I never hear Czech people. (In relation to how heritage influences art): The connection for me is that my mum was a graphic designer, and if you look at a lot of old European graphics, they have elements of collage in it. In the sense that they might not have been collaged but with etching, you would’ve used metal plates: one plate to do one colour and another plate to do another image on top of it. So in a way, it used a lot of different layers to see an assemblage of colour and of pattern. So I think there’s a definite influence for me.

When did you start collaging?
I first collaged when I was in high school. It was more mixed media, I did a lot of paint and photography and tried to fit it all together. I did a version of the style I’m doing now about 3 years ago, so since 2014.

What do you want the viewer to experience when looking at your work?
It’s really up to the viewer’s discretion to what they see in the work. Personally, I think naming the work is important in my art process. I get a lot of my titles from films and songs. So if I’m listening to a song and making a work, I’m like, “the character in this collage might be feeling sad,” then I might Google ‘Film Noir,’ and try a juxtaposition in the name, like ‘Comfort of Sorrow.’ It injects these ideas and feelings but at the same time the viewer can take those emotions on and interpret them how they like in my work.
Tell me about the Sydney Collage Society.
Yes! So the SCS is a society of 13 artists and we started in 2015. Me and Leah (L.A Early) started it. I said, “where all my collage artists at in Sydney?” I couldn’t find any. I didn’t have a formal art degree and I didn’t go to school to learn collage. I felt like I was isolated from artists who do collage or collage-related work. So we started it. Soon enough, more people started contacting me, “hey, I wanna join,” or “this is the work I do.” Predominantly we’ll try to have a couple of shows a year. The most recent one was in New York with the Brooklyn Collage Collective in July. Five of us went over to New York and we had a gallery in Chinatown, in the lower East Side. That was a cool group show. As far as events, last year we started putting on workshops; we had one at the Art Gallery of New South Wales and then we’ve had a couple this year at Work-Shop in Redfern. We’ve got the next one on the 2nd of November. Secure your spot as this puppy is gonna sell out! The workshops are really great because it’s in the evening, it’s BYO and you learn a couple of styles of collage, how to do it, some tips on process, where to find materials. It’s growing. More and more people who miss out on getting a ticket to an event will email me and be like, “hey, you have to let me know when the next event is because me and my girlfriend want to go.” I’m glad there’s people interested in collage. For me, having the society is a great way to share our love of collage.
Who are the artists who influence you and your work?
I try not to get too much influence from specific artists. There’s a couple I love and I follow them on Instagram. Like Human Wreckage, OejerumB.D Graft, Michael Desutter (Royals Courage), Joe Castro and Charles Wilkin. I like seeing a lot of different collage and how people do it and getting influences that way. There’s also a couple of great collage books that I think anyone who’s starting out in collage needs to own: ‘Cutting Edges’ and ‘The Age of Collage 1&2’ (Gestalten).
What does your creative routine look like? How does your day need to go to make work?
I can’t start with a clean desk (unless I have a strong idea of what I want to make). A lot of my work will come from the random act of finding an image which is right in front of me or flipping it over or dissecting it. By having more material around me and being in more of a mess makes me more creative because I feel like I’ve got a lot more elements to play with. It’s really about having ideas. If I don’t have an idea sometimes I’ll just be making work that is more to do with colour balance and shapes. Other times I’ll have this bizarre idea or this dream, and I want to make a work. I love going through old books and finding that one image which stands out to me (“that is such a great image”), and I’ll start working in and around that.
Words by JB Keogh
Photography by Daniel Stelmaszak
Original artwork by Kubi Vasak

See more of Kubi’s work here:
Instagram: @kubism_


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