Decay – Nature Of Things

Decay – Nature Of Things

We have become accustomed to a sterile world. The introduction of plastic meant that we could have long lasting “clean” products with an unnaturalistic quality. But many products that are made from materials such as plastic are only used for a fraction of the time it takes for the material to break down. When we see things start to tarnish and decay, we believe that they are no longer desirable, and many objects are thrown away prematurely. But artist Marcin Rusak explores Nature as a source of transforming processes, and uses natural material such as flowers, leaves and plants in ways which highlight their decaying processes beautifully. 


Marcin Rusak began using discarded flowers and plants from a flower market while studying his masters at London’s Royal College of Art. He pressed petals’ to put natural pigments on silk, creating a painterly textile. This metaphorical process looked into extending their short lives, especially when comparing how labour and time intensive it is to grow flowers. Since then he has established his own studio where they rescue unsold flowers from local shops and floral designers to create furniture and lighting. His most notable work are pieces of flower-in-resin furniture. These feature surfaces of dried blooms, leaves and stems, encased in semitranslucent resin. Some of the surfaces he creates are cut using a CNC milling machine which leaves parts of the plants exposed. Over time these will then begin to decompose, leaving crevices and patterns in their place. This process happens as bacteria is introduced and penetrates the tissue within. Each piece is unique and ever-changing, acting like an evolution over time.


Rusak states that everything decays, but in the meantime it can become design. His Perishable Vases collection features a series of vessels made from vegetable elements that have been “petrified”. Each piece is made from a mixture of tree resin, shellac, wax, plants, flowers, and cooking flour that is heated and pressed into molds. The lifespan of the vases depends on where they are kept. External conditions will shape the object at a faster rate, synonymous with decay of natural things in the wild. While the temperature and humidity increases causes the vases to melt, swell, fall and shrink. This ever changing process also links you to the piece, creating a relationship as you observe it over time.


The degradable concept has been upscaled to an outdoor sculpture commissioned for the William Morris Gallery in London. This sculpture takes the form of a seven-foot-tall treelike form which will be covered with a shellac mixture. The piece will slowly erode over time revealing a metal core adorned with flower patterns inspired by Morris’s Arts and Crafts designs. For his installation The Nature of Things you are brought into a world to witness decay. Incubators were created for the pieces which allow the bacteria to thrive. The compact microenvironments create stable and controlled conditions, which in turn help speed up the decomposing process. These manually controlled habitats put you in control of the lifespan of the piece as overtime they become covered in organisms thriving on the material. 

Rusak has a keen interest in botanics and science. Alongside his artworks he is working with botanical engineering and genetics scientists who are studying the potential for storing data in plant DNA. He has also recently acquired an 18th-century villa outside of Warsaw that he will be turning into a design research lab and cultural centre, with spaces for exhibitions, artist residencies and educational programs.



Marcin Rusak

Aga Beaupré

Yann Seweryn

Justyna Stasiowska

Albert Banaszczak

Marcel Kaczmarek