“Part-animal, part-household object”: Frédérique Rusch on her wonderfully cryptic illustrations
Encompassing both 2D illustrations and 3D sculptures, the illustrator’s work challenges and toys with the idea that objects need to have a use or a purpose, and that they should communicate a clear message.
- Ayla Angelos
- 11 December 2019
- Reading Time
- 3 minute read
“It’s part-animal, part-household object,” says Frédérique Rusch, referring to a recent illustration-cum-object she’s created, titled Cheval Éventail. “I really like my fan-horse. I don’t know exactly how it came into being – all I know is I wasn’t trying to make a fan-horse.” Comprising a soft, pastel-tinted yellow, a scalloped edge, a pivot base and hooves, at first glance you’re not quite sure what this contraption is. And really that’s entirely the point. “It’s not quite identifiable as an animal, and as a functional object (a fan) it doesn’t quite work. So it’s this little indefinable thing, but I find it beautiful, both as an object and as an idea.”
This is a pretty accurate statement about this illustrator’s body of work as a whole, which hovers between the absurd, the witty and the exaggerated. It all began for Frédérique during her childhood years, a period in her life that she characterises as being “lonely” and “introverted”, but one that ultimately led to her practising the art of drawing in her free time. A form of escapism, she soon turned this therapeutic hobby into a craft and studied applied arts in high school – followed by a degree in graphic design, two further years of fine arts, and then, lastly, a degree in photography. “I experimented a lot,” she tells It’s Nice That, “and I tried a lot of different things and stopped several times. It was when I started to put together small publications and discovered fanzine culture that certain things began to emerge. I spent a lot of time finding out what I wanted to do and how to do it.”
Thankfully, once she’d landed on the medium of illustration, Frédérique began producing creations that are a treat for the eye. The list of artists she cites as inspiration includes minimalist abstract artists such as Dan Flavin, Ellsworth Kelly, Carl Andre and Olivier Mosset, as well as Japanese visual artists like Sadamasa Motonaga, Kumi Sugai, Shinro Ohtake and Yayoi Kusama. “In general, I like trans-disciplinary artists who navigate between graphic design, painting, stage sets, music, costumes, objects, books and sculptures,” she explains. “I’ve also been lucky to have met artists who have taught me a lot, both by the way they approach their work and simply as people.” This includes the likes of Studiolent (Julie Redon), Stefanie Leinhos, Gaelle Loth, Margaux Duseigneur and Louise Aleksiejew.
“Apart from that, I really like truck trailer graphics, shop signs, road signs and household objects,” she says. Looking at her work, it’s clear how she pulls these influences together. Everything is slightly offbeat, yet somewhat reminiscent of an old cartoon character or graphic which we’ve passed throughout our daily lives.
While compiling her ideas, Frédérique comments on the fact that she’s in fact “very slow”, only because she likes to try out a lot of different things. What’s more is that she draws many of her compositions from the unpredictable moments, where she’s working on something completely unrelated: “I have to feel sufficiently light-hearted and happy, then find the appropriate music,” she adds, “to be able to sit at my desk and stay there.” When a concept arises, she works with a typical array of instruments, including pen and gouache, but often, she will test her skills and play around with volume – through clay, wood, fabric and lightweight materials such as foam and polystyrene.
Frédérique strives to create a visual language within her work. And, most importantly, wants to make people laugh, “with funny and absurd propositions, a little grotesque, offbeat and exaggerated”. It’s this sweet spot that she finds most beautiful. “I also like using clear signs to send scrambled messages; my images are often very minimal, but not always intelligible,” she says. Similarly, Frédérique’s pieces try to challenge the assumption that objects need to have a use or purpose: “I have a pronounced taste for things that are not adapted, not always functional or efficient – it’s my attempt to subvert in our productivist society.”