Ricardas Blazukas enjoys an artistic career within the fields of architecture, art and design. Recently having exchanged his full-time architect’s job for an independent artistic career he is due to complete some of his most exciting work yet. CP Magazine sat down with the talented designer to learn more about what’s to come.
Ricardas, please tell us about yourself.
I am an independent architect, artist and designer who calls Kuwait home. I was born and raised in Lithuania and educated in the UK. I moved to Kuwait to work as a design architect at a local multi-disciplinary firm right after graduation in London four years ago. Now, I am in my first year working independently and it’s a pretty fun ride.
Tell us about your education.
I grew up in a musical family and attended a music school for eight years. I also went to art school and was involved in a graffiti movement as a teenager. The street culture heightened my awareness of the urban environment that surrounded me and made me think about how architecture affects the way people live. So, I decided to move to London to study architecture and after finishing a master of architecture degree at Westminster University, I ended up in Kuwait.
What fascinates you in architecture?
Architects design spaces for people and to do that successfully the architect must have an open mind – he or she must be able to approach design briefs from different perspectives, whether the client’s or the user’s. Architecture offers a continuous learning process. One day you might be designing someone’s house and the next you might need to learn everything there is to know about how a certain institution works, how people use their facilities and how architecture can improve their daily lives.
My first project at university was a youth centre inspired by my own childhood memories. It was interesting to look back at my life and understand how architecture played an important role in the way I chose to do things. Approaching architecture from this perspective fascinated me and it felt good to pursue this field as my career.
Were you always interested in art from a young age or was it something you came to love over time?
I always enjoyed art, but my understanding of art grew with time. I was fortunate to have professors at university who approached architecture from the perspective of art. Throughout my university years, I studied art, made many sculptures and created many drawings and paintings, all of which informed the projects I design.
When did you make your first sculpture?
I was in my second year at university when I created a mixed mortar and gypsum block of ‘Schaulager’, one of my all-time favourite buildings designed by architects Herzog & De Meuron in Switzerland. It was just an abstract architectural model, but it had so much beauty in the form and depth in the texture. I didn’t think of it as a sculpture when I made it, but I wish I hadn’t thrown it out as I would have it displayed at home with my other sculptures.
What are some of the projects you worked on in Kuwait as an architect?
The first project I worked on was the New Maternity Hospital, which is currently undergoing construction. It’s worth mentioning that I also worked on plans for the New Palace of Justice, an iconic project to be built in Kuwait City some years from now.
What mediums do you work in and why?
I enjoy taking up new briefs and exploring new processes, constantly expanding my eclectic portfolio. I have created large-scale murals, small and large-scale ceramics and various castable sculptures. I’ve also used both woodwork and metalwork in my creative projects. That said, all my work shares common aesthetic elements, including a juxtaposition of bold colours and geometry.
How did living in the UK influence your work?
I was most influenced by two professors, Sean Griffiths and Kester Rattenbury, at the University of Westminster. The work that I do today stems from the two years that I spent as a member of their Design Studio 15. I became particularly interested in chance in art and design. I was introduced to John Cage, who composed music using the Chinese Book of Chance, I Ching, and then, similarly, I created a series of paintings driven by chance. I also built kilns for ceramics, where I experimented with different types of firing techniques to achieve unexpected aesthetics in product design.
Tell us about your artistic collaborations and projects in Kuwait.
I am currently working with a product designer Kawther Al Saffar and an architect Jassim Al Nashmi on a Kuwait City Pavilion project to be built as part of Abwab – the highlight concept of Dubai Design Week this coming November. Our pavilion called ‘Desert Cast’ displays how functional objects can be cast from metal using sand. Our focus is to present the accessibility of craftsmanship in Kuwait and push the boundaries of local design.
I am also the curator of the ‘50 Years of Architecture in Kuwait’ exhibition, which will take place in October. It is organized by architecture firm Pace, who are celebrating their 50th anniversary this year. The highlight of the exhibition will be an archive displaying some of the oldest architectural drawings of Kuwait.
I am also working with my past collaborators – a young architecture firm in London, Boano Prišmontas, on an exciting design installation concept made for a specific location in Kuwait, so watch this space!
Last but not least, I have a number of artwork commissions regionally including original art for a high-end villa, a 5-star hotel in Qatar and a local design concept store.
Which tools do you use the most?
Since my work is so broad, I’ll mention a few. For paintings, I usually go for acrylics on canvas or wood. For murals, I print and cut stencils and use spray paint. For ceramics, I use my own built kiln which I fire outdoors. Plus, of course, a variety of software to conceptualize my designs such as Rhino, AutoCAD and Adobe Illustrator.
Do you have a typical working process?
First and foremost, I start with a pen and a sheet of paper. I sketch and scribble, which helps to loosen up my mind in search of ideas.
What are you currently fascinated by and how is it feeding into your work?
During my first years in Kuwait, many people asked me how Kuwait influenced my work. I didn’t feel like it did at the time, but now – four years later – I see Islamic geometric patterns, calligraphy and Sadu naturally finding their way into my work. It’s not overly apparent, but the motifs are there. It’s an organic process.
How much does your work studio influence your creative thoughts?
A creative environment is a key element in my work process. I see my work as an ongoing development. Being surrounded with the work that I’ve done helps me find and develop new starting points.
How would you describe your design ethos and how do you ensure that you stick to it?
It is important to me that my work reflects original thought. Sometimes I even avoid looking at precedents and try to build on my own work. I enjoy an element of chance in my work and sometimes deliberately choose to work in an environment where things can go off track. I try to embrace errors and look for opportunities for them to inform my work.
What is your favourite ever project that you have worked on and why?
My favourite project must be ‘Aidah – An Invisible City’, an installation done for Dubai Design Week 2017 in collaboration with my friends Jonas Prišmontas and Tomaso Boano, who are founding partners of the previously mentioned architecture studio Boano Prišmontas based in London. I enjoyed the creative energy that we all brought into our project, the challenges that we managed to overcome, the final result of our work and the good times we had together.
What subject matters interest you? What are some of the stories behind your work?
Through our ‘Aidah’ installation, we spoke about Dubai – the way the city was built and the future that it awaits. Through ‘Ceramic Stools Collection’ project, which was awarded a runner-up position at Middle East Emergent Designer Prize last year, I experimented with ‘chance’ in the process of firing ceramics. Through our ‘Desert Cast’ project, we want to shed light on the accessibility to different crafts and skills in Kuwait.
Who or what has been the biggest influence on your approach?
My work pivoted after I first saw a Ken Price sculpture at a gallery in New York. For me, it had everything I was interested in – ceramics, geometry, colour and architectural form. I then dug deeper into the Memphis Art movement and became fascinated by creative artists such as Ettore Sottsass and Peter Shire – who have completed a range of creative work from pottery to product design to large-scale sculptures and even architecture.
Is there any other creative work you’d like to explore in the future?
I would love to create a large scale public art sculpture to be built somewhere in Kuwait City and hope that this can happen soon. I also enjoy curatorial work and hope to pursue more projects within that field.
What are some of your upcoming projects?
The above mentioned ‘Desert Cast – A Kuwait City Pavilion’ at Dubai Design Week, ‘50 Years of Architecture in Kuwait’ exhibition, as well as a solo show displaying my latest paintings at one of the galleries in Kuwait.
What advice can you give to beginning artists?
Aim to bridge the gap between creative fields. Experiment with different media, scales and materials. The experience of using a variety of crafts and techniques will inform your work and help your work get noticed.
What’s the best piece of advice you have heard and repeat to others?
Search for things that bring you happiness and self-fulfillment; everything else will follow.
Your message to us at CP magazine.
Thank you for your continuous support to the local creative community!