Most of us see rust as something to be removed by special cleaners, a sign of decay, and a threat to the smooth functioning or appearance of our metal objects. But artists are in the business of seeing things a little differently, and that includes the artistic qualities and possibilities of rust.
Photographers in particular seem to be drawn to all things rusted as subjects that offer much more interesting textures, patterns and colors, and perhaps more character than their counterparts that have not suffered wear and tear, revealing that there is sometimes more beauty in imperfection.
Sculptors will take this one step further and create new objects from pieces of old discarded scrap metal, giving it new form and purpose. Sculptural artist and metalworker Barry Smith sometimes installs his works outdoors exposed to the elements to allow the continued natural process of weathering to become part of the artwork’s ongoing life.
There are artists who work with the many possibilities of paper as a medium, using different materials, beyond pen and ink and brush and paint, to make marks. Calligraphic and book artist Fiona Dempster lays metal objects such as the bit of chain used above, on handmade paper, then waits for the rain to create beautiful effects, partly the result of intention, and partly surrender to the random.
And for those who do not wish to confront rust in its physical form, there are painters who use the color of rust in their works, making use of its associations with earth and metal, the natural and the manmade. Maybe these artists find rust appealing as a symbol of the ravages of time, or survival in spite of it, or just because they offer an unusual and unexpected visual effect to explore – or maybe a little bit of all three.
Brian Sylvester is a guest blogger on WallSpin, and an artist on Zatista.
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