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Blauhaus – Beauty in the Broken

Updated: Apr 5, 2023

Anja Blau takes us through her artistic journey and experiences using and repurposing broken and discarded items into art.

I have always been creative, whether it was crafting, painting or making things, and from an early age I knew I wanted this to be part of my future career. Growing up in a small town, a creative profession was not seen as a ‘proper job’ or realistic career choice.

After years of working jobs that did not fulfil me, I decided, at 30, to do what I should have done years before and go to university to do my bachelor’s in Art. At that point, I hadn’t done any art for years and had no idea what my medium was or what exactly it was I wanted to do creatively.

Over the course of 4 years at university, starting at Oxford Brookes University and later specialising in sculpture at the University of Brighton, I discovered my love for all things broken, cracked, dented etc. I saw beauty in things that others often overlooked and that are not obviously beautiful. At first I was very intrigued by rust, patinas, the process of decay and combining those with gold. But as I love colour and missed the vibrancy in my work. The rust element faded over time and my pieces became more sleek, focusing more on shape than purely on textures. The general theme of my work is ‘Beauty in the Broken’ which really sums up my art perfectly.

Photo from author.

In my artist statement I describe it as followed:

“In my work I investigate ‘Beauty In The Broken’, in which I find that physical processes that mirror corrosion and deterioration, in combination with bright colours, patination and gold, reflect our own emotional complexity and journeys. Patinas and Rust, symbols of age and deterioration often represent a life lived and at times, the end of an object.

I am intrigued by the history of such decayed objects and encourage the viewer to take a closer look and question what story lies behind each of them, what journey have they been through and what meaning did they carry in the past. Such items can be actual found objects, pieces I have processed to mimic decay and age or a combination of both.

By turning decayed and broken objects into art I am aiming to give pieces that were declared waste a new life and meaning and ask the viewer to see beyond rust just as a symbol of deterioration but as a hallmark of a lived life. I am testing the norms of what we, as a society, label ‘beautiful’ and how we can re-shape those standards. I am inspired by the Japanese art of Wabi-Sabi, finding beauty within imperfections, celebrating cracks, damages and other marks that are created by time, weather and history.

Gold as the ‘eternal metal’ represents preciousness and purity and acts as a beautiful contrast with the rusted and damaged scrap metal. It creates a form of elegance. By pairing decayed objects with gold I create the illusion of found archaeological treasures, combining age and decay with the everlasting shine of gold as well as vibrant colours of life and nature…Sometimes things need to be broken to expose the true beauty.

Although my work does not have a religious meaning, it does explore the concept of life and death, and the themes of an eternal life and rebirth.”

Photos from author.

It has become clear to me that my work and the whole concept of bringing things ‘back to life’ is attached to a health anxiety that I have been suffering from for the past years. Creating these artworks from objects that were decaying and considered ‘dead’ combining them with bright colours and gold is my way of coping with the fear of death.

I create and sell unique, vibrant sustainable art, decorative and jewellery pieces made from locally reclaimed materials that combine beauty with function, for people that want vibrant colour and modern artisanal design in their homes and businesses. Every piece is a one off and an original.

I work mainly in scrap metal – this is where my heart is, as it can tell so many stories. The rust, dents, patinas etc. from an old piece of metal can be so beautiful to look at and you can’t help but wonder what it once was or where it has been. Did it belong to a car? A boiler? Scrap metal is very intriguing that way, at least for me.

I also create ceramic jewellery made from broken ceramics or china and vibrant mirror works made from broken mirrors and salvaged frames. I don’t cover any ‘flaws’ nor do I try to fix them. To me every flaw is a hallmark, and they make each piece unique. Maybe it is the maker in me but I also like my artworks to have some form of function. The sculptures are combined with neon making them also lighting features, while the mirrors can still function as mirrors and the ceramics can be worn as accessories.

Photo from author.

When I moved to Brighton 3 years ago, I had noticed how much people leave outside on the street for others to take. ‘Free Stuff’, dumped and considered rubbish. It blew my mind! So almost all my materials are second-hand, reclaimed or found these days. Brighton is very giving in that sense as you can find things on almost every corner. But I also source materials from recycling centres, charity shops or markets (usually things that are broken and are bound to be thrown away).

At the beginning I used second-hand materials due to financial reasons, as I simply couldn’t afford new art supplies. But with time, I realised that found and reclaimed objects represent best what I want to tell in and with my work as these pieces already carry their ‘hallmarks of a lived life’ so I didn’t need to recreate a decayed look. This became more and more important to me as I want my pieces to be authentic and not mimic something. I became more passionate about reusing materials and giving objects a new life. There is so much out there that is considered waste or rubbish which can be easily reused and turned into something special. Knowing that, in a way, I can do something good with my work while making something vibrant and beautiful is really fulfilling to me, as well as being able to share this with people and opening their eyes to the ‘Beauty in the Broken’.

I have started a creative community project called ReMakers Unlimited where I want to teach people in the form of workshops how to reuse materials themselves to create and upcycle, engaging with and involving the local community. We will create and transform objects into not only artworks but also functioning objects and decor from scrap materials. It is not purely upcycling (I find this word has been very overused these days) but more transforming.

From February, I will have my own shop gallery at the Brighton seafront. I am absolutely ecstatic about this and at the same time super nervous. This is a big leap for me as an artist and business woman. I hope to be able to use the space not only as a trading point but as a hub to host my workshops from.

Photo from author

Instagram: @blauhaus__

Facebook: blauhaus__

About the Author: Anja Blau is a visual artist and sculptor who is based in Brighton and works under the brand name Blauhaus.

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