Copper in the Arts

June 2017

Paul Rung Studio: Where Eye-Catching Copper Is The Framework And More

By Nancy Ballou

paul_rung_2.jpgCopper wall art by Paul Rung.

Photograph courtesy of Paul Rung. 

During 20 years as a commercial/advertising photographer in Chicago at his own studio, Paul Rung was always working on fine art photography and looking for new ways to present it.

Noticing that everybody seemed to show photography at galleries in the same way—with a white matte and a simple black framehe set out to create something different.

“I wanted to have the frame speak a little bit about what was going on in the picture. I started mounting photographs printed on heavy rag paper onto copper sheets that I would crinkle and distress in a variety of ways,” he says. “I enjoyed the eye-catching reflective quality and the variety of things you could do to it. The copper had originally been used as photography backgrounds. I was also painting on metal at the time, making distressed backgrounds for one of my clients. Grinding the paint off, re-painting to get a layered, aged appearance, I started doing that with copper while also experimenting with chemical treatments. I always prefer to keep the processes a little random, allowing the outcome to dictate my visual direction. Everything has its own identity. Each piece is one-of-a-kind.”

He started photographing a lot of reflective objects and liquids on metal backgrounds that he would make himself.

“Over time, I accumulated a lot of interesting copper, metal and steel sheets at my studio so I started playing around in my spare time, using it on frames and small art pieces,” he says. “Frames for photography led to mirror frames which I originally made to hang outside in the garden at my home near my studio. I had a few of the mirrors and photo frames hanging in my studio and clients wanted to buy them. Soon, I was selling them at a gallery in the Wicker Park/Bucktown neighborhood of Chicago.”

When Rung started out, he didn’t have the vast resources of the internet and he had to develop processes on his own through trial and error. He still uses these tried and true skills and doesn’t pursue new methods through You Tube or other websites.

paul_rung_1.jpgCopper wall art by Paul Rung.

Photograph courtesy of Paul Rung.

“I’ve always followed my own path of techniques and visual direction in the art, photography and functional art I create,” he says. “It’s the only way to arrive somewhere new.”

He now makes custom mirrors, sconces, clocks, small tables, and murals of all sizes. Subject matter relates back to nature and the landscape around us.

“Eleven years ago, I moved about an hour away from Chicago to a rural setting in north central Illinois, a very inspiring environment,” he reflects. “More recently, I’ve been working on large patina copper headboards, an 8’ x 5’ mural for a permanent installation, and masses of wall strips. The wall strips have become one of my favorite things. They are often displayed in groups of 10 to 25 or more, vertically or horizontally allowing the customer to get as creative as he/she wants with the arrangement. I currently sell at five or six select art shows in the midwest and on Etsy. My work appears in restaurants, corporate environments and private residences all around the country.”


Paul Rung Studio, Caledonia, IL, (312) 304-1986

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