THE ARTIST HELPING US TO APPRECIATE THE BEAUTY WE ARE SURROUNDED BY.
Benas Burdulis works between architecture, design, and art. His work distills ephemeral phenomena, specifically light and color, giving them a physical presence. The resulting objects and spaces bring people closer to nature and to their own experience of perception.
You flow between architecture, design, and art - what are the benefits of this approach? Where exactly are the lines between architecture, design, and art? Historically, each discipline has increased in its need to preserve a specialness about its existence. I would rather make the split between rational and intuitive ways of working. When I get stuck in one way of working, such as practical thought, I’ll put on my “clown nose” in order to free up the process and see things from a different perspective. This allows me to arrive at unexpected or irrational results, keeping things more interesting for myself and for the viewer.
Your work focuses on the 'distillation of ephemeral phenomena, specifically light and colour' - what inspired this focus? Looking back, I have always been interested in giving emphasis to the subtle sequences constantly happening around us, such as the fleeting changes of daylight. I only became fully aware of this in the second half of my undergraduate studies at Design Academy Eindhoven, when I was in the school’s artistic development program that was then called Atelier 3. It was a unique and very intense program, but I remember it as a highlight of my time in Eindhoven. We had an assignment to choose a small white object and to place it on a white background in the direct sun. We then had to paint the different colors of the light and shadow every 30 minutes for an entire day. This was the most eye-opening and enriching visual experience of my life, as I began to appreciate the subtle colors around me in a completely new way. One of the goals of my work is to offer that experience to others. Another experience that made me more confident about this approach was reading the book “Seeing Is Forgetting The Name Of The Thing That One Sees”, which is over 30 years of conversations with Robert Irwin. The story of his focused, lifelong work with perception is very inspiring!
You ‘use light to create environments that are 'optimistic, mysterious, and stimulating yet serene' - are you on a mission to bring us peace? Maybe it is a mission to bring us peace, but I would rather say that I try to help people appreciate the beauty that they are already surrounded by, instead of consuming every novelty and running towards ever-changing goals.
You have spoken about 'tension between efficient technique and subtle effect in your work', please explain? I believe that good design should be able to do a lot with very little. I work iteratively, trying to simplify and reduce things with each step. Certain aspects become maximized, whereas others become eliminated. Through this process, the project slowly becomes what it is. It can take a very long time to arrive at a simple and pure result. The pace of the project is determined by how quickly you can go through the cyclical process of making, testing, reflecting, and making again.
You were born in Vilnius, but grew up in Chicago and New Hampshire - does Lithuania influence your work? My roots will always be in Lithuania. I may not currently live there, but my experience of growing up there still strongly informs my work. Cities in Lithuania are compact, so there is plenty of wild nature to enjoy, and most people have country houses outside of the city. I spent a lot of my childhood in that beautiful nature, and this has shaped my aesthetic preferences towards visually tactile surfaces, natural materials, an interest in translating the rich atmosphere of old forests, etc. I have also recently been very inspired by the amazing work of Jonas Mekas, a Lithuanian artist, who tries to show the beauty in everyday moments by trying to make films about “nothing”.
Do you notice differences in how your work is perceived in Europe vs the USA? It’s never good to generalize, but in general, I find that the Europeans are more concerned with criticality, whereas Americans are more concerned with production.
What projects have you got coming up that we can look forward to in 2018? Since the end of 2017, I have been spending most of my time on establishing an architecture and design praxis named Archival Studies. This will begin as a collaboration with two close friends, colleagues, and past classmates from Eindhoven and Cranbrook: Emil Roman Froege and Yuan Chieh Yang.
We are currently applying for funding to continue our work to contextualize traditional architectural craft techniques through digital fabrication. We hope to have an online presence by June, 2018. This was one of our first collaborative projects: Classical Through Digital