When Radek Husak makes art, there is very little that isn’t prepared in advance. Considering the process just as relevant as the final result, this London-based contemporary artist explores all elements of a project – from materials to techniques – before creating a scene of what he likes to call ‘highly controlled chaos’ that has come to define his work. 
Using creative alternative techniques from the 19th century also adds another dimension to his process, challenging the temporary nature of art and giving it more permanence over time. Coming off the heels of a major milestone in his artistic career with Photo London, we had a chance to talk with Radek not only about his first solo exhibition but also the inner workings of his artistic process and how a Greek philosopher and Pop art influence his representation of the nude figure.
Radek Husak Metalmagazine 3.jpg
When did you first develop an interest in contemporary art? Did you know from a young age that it was something that you wanted to pursue in the future?
Growing up in Poland, it is difficult to pinpoint an exact moment, although I can say that from an early age, I was artistically inclined. My parents always encouraged my brothers and me to express ourselves in a way that suited our characters. When I was a young teenager, I tried anything from model-making and macrame to dance, singing and acting. My teacher, identifying my potential talents in the plastic arts, suggested that I should pursue this path in the Art Lyceum.
During these formative five years, my focus shifted to design and traditional printmaking. A few years later, when I moved to London (at the time, I was studying Art History in Poland), new avenues became available to me. Like many others, I decided to stay and continue my education in the United Kingdom. I was fortunate to be accepted to the BA Graphic Design course at Central Saint Martins. The ethos of the college emphasised the blurring of the boundaries between art and design. This, in turn, led me (after a few years working as a commercial designer) to the print course at the Royal College of Art. As you can see, I was always (directly or indirectly) interested in what constitutes contemporary art.
I read on your website bio that you are inherently a process-driven artist. How does being focused on the process differentiate your art from other artists rather than being driven by the final result?
I am a firm believer in what some people call a ‘good practice’. During my undergraduate studies, I was fortunate to be mentored by Professor Phil Baines. He taught principles of understanding and creating. That was the start of my obsession with the ‘process’. Exploring all the elements of the project – materials, techniques, even people involved – confirmed for me that there would be no ‘go-to solution’ in my work. Quite the opposite: by exploring the material, I was able to uncover exciting behaviours, properties and the often hidden inner beauty of it.
The way that my approach contrasts with other artists is the mode of work. I plan and prepare. There is very little room for a spontaneous outburst of creativity. Although I am naturally very chaotic and clumsy, I am meticulous and organised when it comes to my work. Furthermore, my attitude toward materials seems to be different. I have great respect for all the matter that constitutes my practice. Nothing gets discarded, all is re- or up-cycled (my friends call me a borderline hoarder). If you work with it, the final result is often the beginning of the new process.
Another unique aspect of your artistic process is the use of cyanotype, print or sandblasted aluminium to create some of your pieces. How do these materials and mediums contribute to the figurative storytelling of those pieces?
Again, it’s all linked to my interest in the process, history and the people behind it. It was at the Royal College of Arts where I met and befriended Brittonie Fletcher, an American artist now working in Edinburgh. She taught me the principles of cyanotype, salt printing and the noblest of them all, platinum-palladium. Those 19th-century alternative processes open entirely new avenues for my mark-making. Later, as I was looking for a new ‘canvas’ for my imagery, I ventured into the glass and ceramics department.
After a lengthy discussion with one of the technicians, I started sandblasting random surfaces. It was a ‘eureka’ moment when a piece of aluminium was turned into a piece of solid ‘stardust’. The material and medium became an aspect of my storytelling. Inorganic and elemental matter become a support for the organic and fleshy – presenting movement on a static surface. I like to challenge the temporary or fleeting aspect of art with something that aspires to be there for posterity.
“Although I am naturally very chaotic and clumsy, I am meticulous and organised when it comes to my work.”
What’s immediately striking about your work is the chaotic but captivatingly beautiful nature of the imagery. In fact, it’s almost like a dance caught in motion. What feelings are you hoping to evoke from viewers when they ponder about the metaphysical meaning of your work?
It is highly controlled chaos; there is very little that is accidental in my work. It takes preparations before I hit the shutter. All of my figurative works explore the essence of movement. What interests me is how a flat surface can become as expressive as actual motion. My experience of art is deeply rooted in my Christian upbringing. My first contact with art was in our local parish church. Figures of saints and paintings with biblical themes and emotions contained within engraved themselves deeply on my ideas and understanding of what art can be. I tend to employ those principles in my work, often over life-sized figures captured in the moment of contemplation, shock, pleasure or a ‘mental’ ecstasy. The heightened emotional state, often reinforced by the use of a diptych or triptych, creates my version of ‘gesamtkunstwerk’. I aim for the audience to engage with the work on an emotional and spiritual level.
Nudity is also a recurring theme in your figurative series, which you also combine with pop culture elements from the 1960s. How do you juxtapose your liberal interpretation of body depiction with the pop culture elements of relatively conservative time periods?
As the Greek philosopher Protagoras once said, ‘‘Man is the measure of all things’’. This maxim applies to the Pop Art of the mid-century with the difference that the icon, idol or star takes centre stage. The everyday human is just an insignificant speck. I want to augment that by introducing the anonymous nude figure into my work. The naked youth becomes an archetype. Something so fundamentally primary as an unclothed body becomes my common denominator: an entry and exit point. What I borrow from the pop movement is the way the image is constructed and treated. Just think about Warhol’s Double Elvis series with the overlay of the photos, repetition and tension on the shimmering silver background.
Where else do you find inspiration for your abstract series of works? How do you then use that inspiration to create those series until they become something verging on the sublime?
My abstract works are a form of self-portraiture. The inspiration always comes from within. However, in a broader context, the series explores the human condition within a digital age – the glitch and unstoppable entropy. The idea that we can be reduced to scripted code is simply fascinating. The level of abstraction varies across the portfolio of works and what interests me is how far you can push the representation before recognition of the image becomes possible. There is a possibility that they will soon turn into a full feeling of the sublime, a contemplation of a violent and destructive nature.
Photo London Dellasposa Low Res 16.jpg
Like many things, art is relatively subjective and not everyone may agree with the style and practice of an artist. How do you manage to stay committed to an artistic style that resonates with you in the face of other people’s opinions?
My work ethic and daily routine help. I knew that the transition from design to art full-time wasn’t going to be easy. However, by retaining the ‘9-5’ structure of my working week keeps me motivated. I hardly have time to dwell on what people might think about my work. Furthermore, it is a sense of discovery that keeps me focused, never knowing where my next project might take me.
Congratulations on your recent first solo exhibition with Dellasposa Gallery in London. What impression did you want people to take away from the exhibition, especially if it was their first time seeing your work?
Photo London was a milestone in my artistic career. Together with the Dellasposa Gallery, we worked together to bring the best of ‘me’ to the broader public. It was crucial for us to present both sides of my practice: figurative and abstract. We also decided to show the different mediums that I use in the studio, including silver gelatin prints, sandblasted aluminium and digital. I hope that visitors left more open-minded as to what constitutes contemporary photography today. Furthermore, the subject of nude is still very much relevant and that we should be encouraged to think again about how we perceive the body.
Where do you hope your art takes you next? And what do you hope to accomplish as your art starts to make a more significant impact with the more people who see it?
Later this year will see an inclusion of different metals (brass, copper and silver), wood and glass and how those materials can influence the reading of my work. With the growing public interest in my work, I hope to engage with people of different socio-political backgrounds. I am aware there still is a stigma attached to the representation of the nude, especially the male. Initiating a discourse or an exchange of ideas and generating new insights on the subject would be an ideal outcome of my work.
Claudio Mirrored Xviii Scanned Updated All.jpg
Claudio Mirrored Vii Ii All Web.jpg
Claudio Mirrored Vii All Web.jpg
Claudio Mirrored Xxiv Scanned Panels All Web.jpg
Claudio Mirrored Xxv All Scanned Panels Web.jpg
Mirrored Minor Nº1 Scanned Panel Web.jpg
Mirrored Minor Nº5 Scanned Panel Web.jpg
Mirrored Minor Nº6 Web.jpg
Mirrored Minor Nº16 Web.jpg
Tom Mirrored X Scanned Panels Web.jpg
Tommy Mirrored Viii All Web.jpg
Trace (minor) Aspicio Xiv Scanned Panel.jpg
Trace (minor) Aspicio Xvii Scanned Panel.jpg
Trace (minor) Viii Scanned Panel.jpg
Trace Medium Xvii All Scanned Panels.jpg
Trace Medium Xx All Scanned Panels.jpg
Trace Medium Xxiv All Scanned Panels.jpg
Degree Show 2018 Low Res 2.jpg