Artist profile: Nikos Fyodor Rutkowski at Wood.Metal.Art

From the July 17, 2014 edition

For the last decade, Nikos Fyodor Rutkowski has been a leader in the Columbus arts community. Rutkowski was a founding member of the Franklinton Arts District and the original organizer of Urban Scrawl, an annual two-day festival featuring the live creation of murals by Columbus artists and live music performances from local acts. Simply put, Rutkowski has been an integral part, along with many others, of Franklinton’s emergence as Columbus’ newest art hub.

Rutkowski also works for visual merchandising firm Zen Genius and creates special-effects models (puppets and masks). But if there’s been a drawback to his many projects the last couple of years, it’s a lack of time for his fine-art endeavors. Hence, Rutkowski’s exhibit that opens Friday at Wood.Metal.Art features a collection of works spanning the entirety of his career.

“It’s almost like a mini retrospective in a way,” Rutkowski said during an interview at his 400 West Rich studio. “I’d heard good things [about Wood.Metal.Art], and it seemed like a good place to show. And it’s a good excuse to show again. I’ve been showing infrequently; I think I’ve had one show in the last two to three years.”

Even though Rutowski hasn’t shown in many exhibitions recently, it doesn’t mean this one has a limited number of pieces. About 20 two-dimensional pieces in various sizes, created using paint, cut paper and other mixed mediums, will be on display. It’s a full representation of the styles and methods Rutkowski has engaged over the years.

“I’m looking at this show as an opportunity to see what I’ve done. I’m hoping after seeing all this work together I’ll have a good idea of [where I’m] going to be and what I want to make,” Rustkowski said of his future fine-art works, which includes a larger exhibition at Rosewood Gallery in Kettering, Ohio, in October 2015.

A good portion of the Wood.Metal.Art show will feature two different approaches Rutkowski used: a meticulous arrangement of cut paper and paint, and a less controlled style in the “Aesthetic Experimentation Series.”

The piece “hapticopticmanicpanic” is a shining example of Rutkowski’s paper and paint creations. The large piece, created on a recycled door, has a background made of glitter and Sumi ink that shifts hues depending on the viewer’s position. The top layer is a carousing bounty of intricately cut and positioned colored paper forms that produce faintly recognizable images in abstraction.

“What I was trying to achieve was a sense of movement, almost like a narrative quality to the abstraction. I also played with making forms that felt like they could be real, that alluded to those [identifiable] forms,” Rutkowski said of the octopus and bird-like features incorporating sci-fi elements. “It reads as an image, but is also completely abstract, and of nothing that exists in the world.”

The entire piece and its companion (also door-sized), which Rutkowski sold to the Greater Columbus Arts Council, took two years to complete. Both were finalized with several layers of resin.

“It was a process. I was making up the rules as I went along and breaking them as I went along. I think when you’re working on something for two years, it becomes all about the rules and then how to break them here or there,” Rutkowski said.

After the years-long work, Rutkowski took a different direction; an “anything goes” approach for the Aesthetic Experimentation Series.

“I’d [take] some paper and cover it up, or put down a layer of paint and immediately scrub it off. So there are all kinds of layers, and all kinds of things that shouldn’t be layered together on each and every one. Like oil stick and then Sumi ink, and then I hit it with a torch. I kind of went overboard on some, but it was definitely [important],” Rutkowski said, because this “mark-making” process leads to the movement the artist looks to capture.

Besides works from his professional career, Rutkowski will also bring notebooks filled with everything from his earliest sketches as a child through his college years for attendees to flip through. This exhibit presents the opportunity to experience the full scope of Rutkowski’s artistic evolution to this point.

Photo by Meghan Ralston