Could you tell us a bit about yourself and your background? Where did you study?
My name is Rafal Zajko and I’m a Polish artist based in London. I moved to UK when I was 19 to study. I did my foundation at CSM, my BA at Chelsea – and recently (2020) I graduated from my MA at Goldsmiths.
Central to your practice is the interplay between aesthetics of craft and modernism — in particular the legacies of ex-USSR architecture, as seen in Eastern Europe. There exists a propulsive element to this iconography, which whilst no longer representing the future per se, does evoke a clear sense of futurity. How do you balance this sense of direction and permanence with your passion for ephemeral and delicate craft techniques? For example your work in wax, ice or ceramics.
I was born in Poland at the brink of the collapse of the USSR. I was growing up in a country that was trying to wash the residues of communism whilst being flooded by western culture. I was raised by my grandparents who worked in the fabric factory in Bialystok (my hometown). The factory started collapsing at the beginning of the 90s which was a bit of an irony as the unions of workers (Solidarity movement) were crucial to the collapse of communism.
I was spending a lot of my childhood in the factory. I was obsessed with looking at the interplay between the workers and the different weaving machines. Human fingers, huge metal cogs, fragility and strength were all at play. It had a huge impact on the way I think about the sculpture – often the works I make might look like they are inviting you to interact with them – sometimes I interact with them in my performances, and they become an extension of my own body.