Milk bottle heads – sculpture from recycled rubbish

Contemporary art - sculpture from recycled rubbish or junk - milk bottle heads

Milk bottle heads
Plastic milk bottles, ink. September 2018

Plastic milk bottles with human heads drawn onto them.
These heads are an example of art created from rubbish. Their recycled nature is partly an observation on our throw-away consumer culture.
The bottles are surprisingly head-shaped, reminding me somewhat of various non-Western forms of sculpture. I particularly like the way that the milk bottle handles make very interesting and bizarre noses.
I’m in the process of making several dozen of them, as their impact is increased as their numbers increase.

A Leaf Changes Colour in Autumn – Painted Maple Leaf

Contemporary art - a leaf painted blue with red polka dots

A Leaf Changes Colour in Autumn
Leaf, acrylic paint. September 2018

A maple leaf painted blue with red polka dots.
The leaf had fallen from the tree in autumn.
The inspiration for this work came partly from the fact that the leaves on the trees were changing colour in the autumn, prompting me to think of changing their colours in other ways.
In previous years I’ve painted acorns and suchlike in unusual colours.
Like a lot of my work, this work is involved interacting with and responding to the natural environment.

Contemporary art and the environment - a maple leaf painted blue with red polka dots
A detail of the painted leaf.

Environmental art – heads created from discarded milk bottles

contemporary environmental sculpture from consumer waste - sculptural head created from milk bottles

Milkman
Milk bottle, ink. August 2018

Slightly unsettling heads created from empty plastic milk bottles.

Like many artists I have a habit of collecting waste and recycling it into works of art.
The sinister appearance of these heads, drawn as they are on post-consumer waste in the form of discarded plastic milk bottles, can be interpreted as a comment on the fact that we as humans are destroying the environment through (amongst other things) our profligate use of plastic packaging.
The fact that the heads also resemble the type of craft-play objects produced by children can be interpreted as alluding to the western world’s current tendency towards a philosophy of consequence-denying pleasure seeking in which the adults in society fail to take responsibility for their actions beyond immediate self-gratification.

contemporary environmental art sculpture created from consumer waste - heads created from plastic milk bottles

Stranded Object: art and climate change

contemporary art and global warming - abandoned marooned form

Stranded Object
Ink, gouache, digital, paper. 28 x 19cm. July 2018

This image, like many images that I’ve created recently (mid 2018) is a work that is largely generated from my imagination. Having said that, the original inspiration for the crescent-like form was a piece of toast crust.
The work contains definite ominous overtones. These are probably linked to the general atmosphere of foreboding that seems to permiate society at the moment (manifesting itself in such things as the election of Donald Trump in the USA and the swing of many European countries to the right). On top of this the phenomenon of global warming threatens to disrupt the earth’s entire ecosystem and to overturn all civilisation as we know it. Things have only just started to get bad.
The prime source of the foreboding in this work is indeed climate change and the fear of a devastated planet. The imaginary object in the image bears some resemblance to an organic form, possibly a part of an animal’s anatomy – perhaps a horn or a jawbone. The slender forms that protrude from what may be the teeth of a jawbone could possibly be legs, turning the form into something like an upturned crustacean. Whatever it is, the object has the feel of a decaying life-form. The object also has something of the feel of an unnatural artefact – perhaps a piece of rubble following the destruction of a building (with the slender forms representing metal rods in reinforced concrete).
Whatever it is, the object is abandoned or marooned on a featureless plain that probably represents the devastated earth following the ravages of climate change. The fact that the object looks very large is probably symbolic of the enormity of the threat that climate change represents.
Having said all that, the work was not created with any particular symbolism or meaning consciously in mind. I’ve worked backwards from the finished image to find its possible meaning. I’m sure that it also has meanings that are purely to do with the workings of my own brain.

Dog Walk: art installation composed of dog poo bags

Dog Walk: dog poo bags
Plastic bags arranged on path. Unspecified contents. Video. Cornwall. June 2018

A video of an art installation in the countryside that comments on the behaviour of some dog walkers.
The work features an avenue of discarded dog pooh bags.
The work was inspired by the experience of going on many walks in the countryside and coming across discarded black plastic dog poo bags: sometimes hidden, sometimes in full view. There’s a theory that the dog owners leave them there to be picked up on their return, however, many of them don’t do it.
The work was created near St Ives, Cornwall.

Hammers – photomontage for sculpture in the landscape, Cornwall

contemporary sculpture land art - giant hammers

Hammers
Photomontage, Cornwall. June 2018

A photomontage of a concept for a sculpture in the landscape.
The landscape in the photograph is the Penwith peninsula in west Cornwall.
The hammers are meant to project a sense of overbearing force, the fact that there are several of them possibly implying organised force (such as military force). Hammers, to me, have a certain anthropomorphic quality to them, suggesting a degree of human identity – a long thin body with a head at the top. The blank facelessness of the heads of the hammers in this image suggest a mindless power.

contemporary sculpture  in the landscape - oversized hammers

The concept also contains an element of humour directed at the art world, in that the massive scale of the work comments on the often gigantic scale of works of sculpture and other interventions in the landscape. Oversized everyday objects are a common feature in sculpture.

Art in the environment, Cornwall

art in the environment - abstract sculpture near St Ives, Cornwall

Transience
Wood and acrylic paint. Zennor Hill, near St Ives, Cornwall. 25th June 2018

A transient sculpture composed of lengths of painted wood battens (the type of wood commonly used in building construction).
The sculpture was created by positioning a small number of battens in the landscape, photographing them, repositioning them and rephotographing them. Then merging the photographs.
As a result the work has an interesting relationship with time. The sculpture never existed in its entirety as depicted in the photograph, each batten only being in position for long enough to take a photograph. The sculpture only takes on its final form when the twenty-five minutes that it took to position and photograph the battens are compressed into a single instant.

A work of land art, an intervention in the landscape, or art in the environment. The wood battens are about a metre long.

Art in the Environment, Cornwall

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

This work consists of a length of brightly coloured cord hanging over the branch of a hawthorn tree in a patch of woodland near St Ives, 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.

Horizon Line – a cord stretched along the horizon

Contemporary art  - intervention in the landscape, Cornwall

Horizontal Line: Cord stretched along the horizon: Cornwall
Plastic cord, landscape. September 2017

A photograph of a length of brightly coloured plastic cord stretched horizontally so that it coincides exactly with the horizon.
This is an unmanipulated photograph.
The work is partly about the all pervasive presence of plastic in our lives and the environment, with the piece of plastic cord seemingly stretching all the way along the horizon. The fact that the line of the cord is along the horizon created by the sea links the cord with the plastic pollution that is present in vast quantities in the oceans.
As well being a metaphor for the plastic that is polluting the oceans, the cord also signifies that plastic is in many ways a very useful and pleasing substance (without which our modern world wouldn’t be able to function). This is indicated by the fact that the cord creates a very pleasing aesthetic effect. The major problem with plastics is the complex molecular structures that are created during the creation of the plastic – when plastics are developed that don’t have those structures, and that thus decompose properly, the plastic problem will be greatly reduced (although of course it will still be a problem, along with all of the other problems that we are inflicting on the planet).

The work also exists at a purely aesthetic level, with an appeal generated solely through the juxtaposition of the horizon and the cord.

Art in the environment, Cornwall - a cord stretched along. the horizon
A detail of the photograph to show the church.

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