Damien Borowik - Interview

Damien Borowik is a French artist living and working in London. Over the past four years Borowik's works have been added to the permanent collection at the Victoria & Albert museum, London, commissioned by Christian Dior Couture, Paris, made part of a residency with Samsung Electronics, Seoul, and exhibited at the Southbank Centre, Kinetica Art Fair and the major exhibition 'Creative Machine' at Goldsmiths, University of London.

Dais recently collaborated with Borowik commissioning a large painting to be produced for the (ANDAZ)Red Suite, designed by Sir Terence Conran, at Andaz London Liverpool Street hotel. We talked to Borowik about his experience working on the commission and his practice to date.

DC - What made you decide to become an artist?

DB - With a background in graphic design, my work has always been restricted by the 'client’s brief'. I started painting because I couldn’t express myself in any other way. The first series of paintings I did back in 2001-2002 allowed me to channel strong emotions during a difficult time of my life.

DC - What inspires you? Or which artists inspire you, and why?

DB - Broadly speaking, my paintings are inspired by life in a spiritual sense. My work doesn’t follow any societal, religious or political views. Instead, I strive to create a narrative from strokes, colours, textures and shapes to translate a set of emotions to the viewer at a deep level.

I love the works of many artists, but particularly the work of Kandisky, Klee, Matisse, Moholy-Nagy, Tinguely, Rauschenberg, Cy Twombly, Lee Hu Fan, and Rothko. My inspiration goes from anywhere between their use of colours, texture and spatial composition to their use of medium and process.

DC - Your recent work has focused around making pieces using computer programming and code. Can you tell us a bit more about that process? What motivated you to start making art in that way?

DB - The French language uses the word ‘plasticien’ to mean visual artist. For me this label defines my practice more accurately, as I have a keen interest not only in the visual shape, but also in the medium and process of shaping the medium using different tools.

I started to create programmes that would generate visual patterns during 2013 while on the MA Computational Arts course at Goldsmiths. In an iterative process I create algorithms that generate patterns, which I can manipulate in real time. In 2014, I decided to make my own drawing machine to investigate the automation of mark making. For me, the journey is more interesting than the destination, and the process of making is an art form in itself. Creating a computer programme to generate visuals or making a machine that can draw through the automation of line making is as interesting to me as painting by hand with a knife or a brush. The ability to make my own creative tools is really stimulating.

DC - You are teaching a Creative Coding workshop at Central Saint Martins School of Art and Design. Can you tell us a bit more about the course? Do you find teaching a fulfilling practice alongside making?

DB - I have been at Central Saint Martins for the past 20 years; 3 years as a student and 17 years as an academic in various posts. The short course on creative coding I teach allows non-coders to be introduced to programming in a tangible way using Processing, an open source app that has been created to allow visual artists and designers to get into coding. It is a powerful tool that can create amazing visuals with only a few lines of code, while learning about programming principles. I find teaching is very healthy for my art practice as it keeps me on my feet with unexpected problems to solve or different points of views to think about.

DC - You recently produced a commissioned painting Flow for a project with DAIS. How did you find this process after focusing on computer generated work for some time?

DB - Having stopped painting by hand for a while I was very excited to paint again, particularly because of the requirements to create an artwork with watercolours on Japanese paper. Japanese paper is highly absorbent and watercolour is also very immediate. In a way, the creative process to make Flow is not dissimilar to other processes I apply to painting, drawing with machines or computer generated art, as I tend to sway between chance and control with a strong emphasis on serendipity. Overall I have really enjoyed working on this piece, and it made me want to get my hands dirty again!

DC - How did you find the commissioning process overall? Is this something you would recommend to other artists if they get the opportunity?

DB - I find working on a commission to be very prestigious. It is rewarding to know that someone wants a new piece of art from you, and more importantly that they trust your creative input enough to take the risk without knowing how the finished artwork will be. It can be a bit stressful at times because you really want the patron to get what they want but without compromising yourself in the process. I would definitely recommend the experience to any artist as I think it allows you to discover other aspects of your practice and of your creative process that you might not have recognised before.

DC - If you could create a site-specific work anywhere in the world, where would you chose and why?

DB - On top of the list it would be a machine art installation on Naoshima, the art island in Japan, overlooking a beach. Naoshima is an amazing natural site where you can appreciate art. When performing, my machines have a contemplative aspect, which would suit the dynamics of the seashore really well.

DC - What are you working on right now? What future projects have you got coming up?

DB - I am working on some new paintings cast in resin in the same way Flow was made. I am also working on a series of machine drawings based on Muybridge’s photography work, as well as some abstract works for an upcoming exhibition at the Stour Space in Hackney Wick this Autumn. I am also very happy to have my work shown in the Chance and Control: Art in the Age of Computer exhibition at the V&A between July and November this year.