Art and design of Rut Byrk
Art and design of Rut Bryk (Part 1)
A Scenery of Modern Deign
Thursday 10, July, 2014
Prologue to an exhibition
There are a number of artists I have always wanted to bring to the attention of a Japanese public the moment I set eyes on their work. Rut Bryk (1916-1999) is one of them. I ran into her work at a retrospective exhibition in the National Design Museum in Helsinki in late 2007. Bryk is a classic Finnish ceramicist who started work in the 1940s and created a wide range of items from small tableware to large reliefs on the walls of public buildings. Her work is poetic and characterized by a bold use of color.
Bryk’s husband, designer Tapio Wirkkala (1915-1985) is well-known in Japan. I met the couple’s eldest daughter Maaria, an installation artist, in 2010 when I was planning a joint exhibition of her parents’ work. This included a visit to her parents’ house in Espoo as well as to two public buildings containing reliefs by Bryk, Helsinki City Hall and Mäntyniemi, one of the official residences of the President, so I could take some pictures. My plan to put on the joint exhibition has yet to be realized, so what I am writing here should be view as a prologue.
Life and Work
Bryk was born into an intellectual-artistic milieu. Bryk’s father Felix was an Austrian biologist who worked in Sweden. Her mother Aino was Finnish and came from a family of artists. The well-known national-romantic painter Pekka Halonen (1865-1933) was Aino’s cousin. During the summers the family spent in Finland on the shores of Lake Ladoga, Felix would catch insects as a hobby and for study, and Bryk often came along to help. Many of the motifs in Bryk’s work derive from the appreciation of living things she developed growing up in this family. This seeming idyll, at the same time there was a dark side to Bryk’s childhood. Her parents broke social convention at the time and divorced when she was still quite young. Around the same time Bryk’s younger sister died, adding to her suffering. After the divorce she and her mother went to live in Finland.
After graduating from the Central School of Arts and Crafts in Helsinki in graphic design in 1939, Bryk worked in textile design. It was only after Kurt Ekholm (1907-1975), the Swedish-trained art director at Arabia Ceramics, hired her on that her genius for sculptural and architectural forms developed to its fullest. As it turns out, before entering university she had studied the fundamentals of architecture, leading me to believe that was the source of her genius. (Hiroko Wakai) To be continued.