Study for Square Floating in the Landscape

Study for Floating Square
Video. 36sec

A gray square floating in a clearing among bushes in the countryside.
The video is of an early study to assess the potential for the concept.
Finished works based on the concept would consist of squares suspended in the environment in positions where members of the public would encounter them, such as along pathways in sculpture parks. The locations of the squares could vary from trackside positions that are below eye level, at eye level and above eye level, where the squares would be seen to move relative to the landscape as the observer walked past. Squares could also be positioned high in the air, sometimes directly above the track, so that they are constantly silhouetted against the sky.

The square in the video, which seems to be floating in the air unaided, is of deliberately uncertain substance or nature. What is certain is that due to its shape, its colour and its position suspended in the air, the square is not a natural part of the environment.
One concept for the work is for the squares to be coloured with a non-reflective black (see image below) so that the floating squares could almost be mistaken for black portals out of the universe and into a featureless void.

Art in the landscape - floating black square in landscape
A video still showing a floating black square that may be interpreted as a “hole in reality”

Art in the Environment, Cornwall

contemporary art in the environment - intervention in the landscape, Cornwall

This work consists of a length of brightly coloured cord hanging over the branch of a hawthorn tree in a patch of woodland in Cornwall.

The simplicity of construction of the piece is important. The observer will hopefully notice the almost total lack of endeavour required to create the work, while also noticing the (hopefully) relatively high aesthetic payoff as a result of that endeavour.

The two bright vertical lines formed by the work contrast sharply with the dark shadows and the tangled and twisted branches and twigs of the hawthorn and  blackthorn in the wood.

The fact that the cord creates two hanging lines gives the cords an increased presence when compared with a single hanging cord. They seem to resonate against each other and create a more concrete effect than would be achieved with a single one dimensional strand.

A lot of land art and other art in the environment strive to use only natural ingredients in the composition of the art, good examples being the work of Richard Long and Andy Goldsworthy. This work however consciously uses artificial material in the form of nylon paracord.

The placing of brightly coloured plastic into the environment refers partly to humanity’s imposition of artificiality onto the natural world. This is partly a message about the despoiling of the environment by our endeavours. The fact that the nylon cord is simply draped across the branch of a tree helps to reinforce this message, as the cord acquires qualities associated with the detritus of our throw-away consumer society. The fact that the cord is plastic reinforces this further, and the fact that the straight lines of the cord are cutting through the organic forms of the woodland gives a slight sense of violent imposition.  However, the brightly coloured plastic looks quite pleasing in some ways and to some sensibilities, so the work is also saying that humanity’s imposition of artificiality onto the environment has a positive side to it (but also that just because something looks nice doesn’t necessarily mean that it is).

In fact, where would we be without the artificiality that we impose on the environment?  The artificiality that we create is one of the greatest achievements of the human race. Would you like to live without the electric and electronic devices that populate your life? (The coloured cord could easily be a length of electric cable). The main problem is that we just create too much artificiality. Hence some of the ambiguity in this piece.

The use of coloured cord in this work was undoubtedly inspired by the work of Fred Sandback.

Dog poo bag discarded in art gallery

contemporary art - dog poop art

This is a piece of art that I created recently that’s inspired by frequent unpleasant encounters with dog poo bags while out on walks in the countryside.

On one walk along a popular track up a mountain in Wales last year the poop bags were so frequent that they inspired me to  conceive of the idea of a path lined with an avenue of poop bags. I’m looking out for a suitable venue.

For the work in these photos it was a small step to move a single bag from the countryside to the art gallery. The question is, is it a real dog poo bag or not? All that I can say is that it’s described as being ‘mixed media’.

contemporary art - dog shit art

Environmental art – planet earth in a kitchen waste bin

This is a visualisation of a concept that I’m thinking of developing into a piece of finished artwork.
It’s a form of environmental sculpture.
The work will consist of a conventional domestic rubbish bin with a black bin liner inside it.

environmental art - earth in a rubbish bin sculpture
From most angles (as in the image on the left, above) the bin will look like any conventional bin: however when viewed from close up at the front (the image on the right, above) the observer will see that looking inside of the bin the blackness of the bin liner gives the impression of a dark void within the bin. Visible in the void will be a glowing representation of the earth. The effect will be of the earth suspended in the vastness of outer space. The bin will appear almost to be a portal to another dimension.
The idea of a mundane rubbish bin containing a portal into outer space is very appealing.
I haven’t yet decided how the representation of the earth in the bin should be realised. It could be a dimly glowing globe or it could be a digital display on a screen positioned near the base of the bin.
The work is an environmental statement and carries an obvious message – that at the human race’s current rate of consumption of the earth’s resources we are treating the earth with contempt and are effectively placing the planet itself in the rubbish bin. The message is obvious because there is no time for subtlety here! Think of it as the sculptural equivalent of an environmental campaign poster.
The work is a development of a concept that I had in about the year 2000, when I produced several drawings of the earth falling into a wastepaper basket. The sculptural potential of using a real rubbish bin to create an illusion of outer space is a more recent development.
The emotional impact of seeing the earth floating in the black void of space inside the bin refers to some extent to the iconic photographs of the earth as seen from space as photographed by the astronauts in the Apollo moon missions.

Work created January 2017, Cornwall.

Contemporary art and climate change – pollution

contemporary art and climate change - pollution and breathing equipment

Breathing on a polluted planet. Digital image. First version: 1991; this version: 2015

A work concerning climate change and pollution.
This work is created in a cartoon-like style. There are several reasons for this. One is that I create quite a lot of cartoons (which have been published in newspapers such as the Guardian and magazines such as Private Eye), and another is that I think that the cartoon style is a particularly good way of communicating about subjects such as global warming, pollution and the various crises that are currently afflicting our planet. One of the appeals of the cartoon art style is that it generally lacks ambiguity, so its message is clear and unmistakable, which is very important with subjects that are as important and clear-cut as climate change.
Other contemporary art styles on the other hand tend to thrive when they contain a degree of uncertainty in what is being said, requiring the viewer to interpret the work as they see fit. Contemporary art that puts forward a message unambiguously can often tend to come across as rather dead, didactic and hectoring.
Also of course, cartoon art, due to its nature, can easily be reproduced in print or electronically without loss of quality (both physical quality and emotional quality), thus making it available to a much wider audience than most contemporary art – which can only be a good thing when the work tackles an important subject as climate change.

contemporary art and climate change - pollution and breathing equipment

Fire Circle – art in the environment

contemporary art in the environment - fire circle

Fire Circle
Burnt vegetation. 2003

A fire made of green wood.
The wood at the centre of the fire has been consumed by the intense heat of the fire.
The wood at the edges of the fire remain unburnt, forming an almost perfect ring of twigs and small branches around the ash core.