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

Spanner Man

Sculpture - a workman's spanner with a ceramic head attached

Spanner Man
Ceramic and spanner. July 2015

The ceramic head in this sculpture is held in the jaws of the spanner by a thin wooden rod that forms the head’s neck.
It is uncertain whether the head is trapped in the jaws of the spanner or whether the head and the spanner form a single entity, with the spanner as the body (The shape of the spanner suggests a seated or crouching body). This tension is part of the appeal of the piece.
Workshop tools such as spanners and hammers are a recurring feature of my sculptural work.

sculpture made from workshop tools - spanner with head
A close-up of the top of the spanner

Coloured rods aligned with a mirror

Contemporary art with mirror reflecting coloured rods producing optical illusion effect

Colour Discontinuity 2: March 2017

A colored rod reflected in a mirror, positioned so that the reflection of the rod coincides with another rod of a different color on the other side of the mirror, creating an ambiguous optical effect.

A study in the perception and interpretation of ambiguous visual stimuli.

A headless classical statue ‘defaced’ by a graffiti face

Humorous contemporary artwork - a classical statue with a cartoon head

Defaced/refaced statue. June 2015. Classical statue, marker pen

A humorous work consisting of a headless classical statue with a cartoon-like face drawn onto the oval form of the neck.
Part of the humor of this piece is the juxtaposition of opposites – the elegant and timeless form of the classical statue in contrast to the crudeness and immediacy of the contemporary head.
The piece also contains dark humour and an unsettling quality due to the fact that the drawn two dimensional head is occupying the surface created by the decapitation of the statue’s three dimensional head.
The drawn on face also has the appearance of graffiti, so it could be said that the act of giving the statue a face is in fact defacing the statue. The word deface literally means to remove the face (as occurred with the vandalisation of statues in the past), so the fact that the act of adding a face to a statue can be interpreted as defacing the statue is ironic.

Hammer and nails – a study of oppression and rebellion

Political contemporary artwork about oppression and rebellion - a hammer and nails

The Oppressor Impaled by the Oppressed. June 2015. Hammer, nails, plank.

A sculptural piece consisting of a hammer nailed to a plank of wood.
Part of the concept behind the work is that the hammer is being empaled by the objects that it normally hits.
This is partly a metaphor for oppression and rebellion, and it’s also a study in irony.
How did the nails come to be impaling the hammer? Were the nails hammered into place by another hammer? In this case the nails are not the downtrodden oppressed rising up to overthrow their oppressor using their own power, but are more like the followers of another power (another hammer) that may turn out to be as oppressive as the hammer that’s been overthrown.

Other versions of this piece have the hammer on a horizontal surface, such as on the top of a plinth. Other versions use different numbers of nails. The vertical version shown here is in some ways more disturbing than the horizontal ones, as the vertical format gives more of an impression of the hammer being violently empaled rather than simply nailed down. It is also disturbingly suggestive of a crucifixion in Christian iconography.

28 Disks – interacting simple shapes forming complex shapes

28 Disks (detail): Abstract moving image: February 2015

An abstract moving image work from a series in which multiple copies of a single shape move and interact using simple computer algorithms, creating complex shapes.
In this work 28 disks follow circular paths. Where even numbers of disks overlap they present white, while where odd numbers of disks overlap they present black.

To see higher resolution videos and more information about this series click here.

Fox skull photo

fox-skull-chris-madden-1818

Here’s a photo of a fox’s skull that I took recently.
Nice abstract sculptural quality I think.
I expect the fox would be very pleased to know that its head had been put to such worthwhile use.

Like most of my images on this site, if you want to use the image please contact me, as the images can’t be used without payment. Thanks.

Anthropocentrism and pareidolia – an orchid flower as a human head.

humour in contemporary art - an orchid as a head (pareidolia)

Pareidolia
Photograph with digitally drawn additions. September 2013

A humorous image: a human body drawn onto a photograph of an orchid.
I like this image’s comic/sinister quality.
It’s a work that’s about the way that people interpret the world around them in anthropocentric terms.
The phenomenon of seeing faces where there aren’t any is called pareidolia. I suspect that the condition evolved because for our hunter gatherer ancestors it was very important to be able to see their enemy’s faces hiding in the undergrowth.

Capturing the Difference Between Sunshine and Shadow on Video

For a long time I’ve been interested in the way that the landscape is transformed by the effects of sunshine and shadows, and by the way that we often hardly notice the extent of the difference between the two (other than by a general feeling of pleasure when the sun brightens things up – here in cloudy Britain anyway). The scene filmed here in the grounds of Hatfield House, Hertfordshire, hopefully captures some of the transformational effect of sun and shadow as the sun emerges from behind a cloud (and then goes in again).

The various people in the background add a surreal air to the whole scene.

Concept for a Tate Modern Turbine Hall Installation: Crocus Carpet

The new Tate Turbine Hall installation by Ai Weiwei reminds me of a Tate Turbine Hall installation of my own invention – an installation that has never actually existed in real life, being a conceptual piece that exists purely as a figment of my imagination and as a few photographs. One of the photos is shown below.

Like Weiwei’s installation my concept is a very low-lying piece of work, made out of a very large number of similar elements. The elements in my work are not artificial sunflower seeds though, they are flowers.

The installation is called Crocus Carpet and it consists (as you can hopefully see in the photo below), of the whole floor of the Tate Modern turbine hall being turfed over and planted with crocuses (apart from the pleasant pathways between the flowers).
Art is often concerned with questioning one’s perceptions, and that’s exactly what this work does. The sensation of strolling through what feels like an area of parkland that’s actually inside a huge cathedral-like industrial building is hopefully unsettling and disorientating. The installation would include specially installed benches on which people could sit and admire the flowers.

Tate Modern Turbine Hall installation - Crocus Carpet
Tate Modern Turbine Hall installation: Crocus Carpet

Crocus Carpet doesn’t only make you question your perceptions by virtue of the fact that it’s an outdoor space that’s been transported indoors – it also does so because the crocuses aren’t crocuses at all. Here’s a close-up photo of them.

Some of the crocuses in Tate Modern’s Crocus Carpet

That’s right. They’re not crocuses.¬†They’re darts.

Here’s how the parts of the darts correspond to the different parts of a crocus.

A crocus from the Turbine Hall’s Crocus Carpet

The installation explores concepts of reality, illusion, perception and deception by utilising the dissonance arising from the similarity in appearance and the contrast in nature between crocus flowers and darts.
In other words, it’s meant to be something about the difference between the soft nature of the flowers and the hard, aggressive nature of darts.

Contemporary art and science – the creation of complexity from simplicity (Generative art)

contemporary art meets science - the creation of complexity from simplicity in generative art

The generation of complex forms from simple forms. Series begun 2008

This is a design to accompany a series of video animations that explore the creation of complex forms from simple forms (usually in the form of grids).
The works were first conceived as a device to visualise the creation of the complex structure that underlies the physical universe from extremely simple fundamental components.
Very much an example of art meets science.
More on the subject.

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.