A video of a dense swarm of flying ants at the top of Zenor Hill, Cornwall.
The 16 second video is extended by repeating and reversing several times.
A swarm of flying ants consists of male ants and virgin queen ants performing their mating ritual. Following this nuptial flight the fertilised queens will dissipate to form new colonies. The males will die.
A sculpture showing how I feel the human race is treating the planet – by putting it into the waste bin.
The sculpture consists of a standard kitchen waste bin, lined internally with black material and with a back-lit image of the earth at its base. The result is the illusion that by looking into the bin you are looking into outer space as though through a porthole in a spacecraft, with the earth floating in the distance.
The kitchen waste bin was deliberately chosen as the reciprocal that contains the earth because of its banality, to emphasise how we are depleting the earth’s resources through mundane consumption.
A version of this work was shortlisted for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2022.I’ve been creating environmental art in one form or another since about 1970.
Giant milk bottle heads
Visualisation of wall mounted sculpture. September 2018
This visualisation is a development of my work in creating human heads from plastic milk bottles.
The heads are vastly over-sized compared to the original plastic milk bottles.
The size of the heads gives them an impressive air, similar to that created by, for example, giant Egyptian sculptural heads. The primitive markings that create the faces are reminiscent of ancient ritualistic statuary. These factors, the ancient and the impressive, give the work a tension due to the mundanity of the objects that are actually represented – discarded plastic milk bottles with fibre tip pen faces drawn on them.
These heads are partly a comment on our throw-away consumer culture. The size of the milk bottles can be taken to represent the size of the problem of consumer waste, especially of one-use consumer waste (such as plastic milk bottles). The faces drawn on the bottles are a reference to the fact that it’s normal people who are generating the waste.
The work reflects my interest in art and the environment (I created my first environmental art in the early 1970s).
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.
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.
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: 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.
Update, 2021. This work has taken on more relevance since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, as more people purchase more dogs, which in turn produce more excrement. The fact that some of the new dog owners are quite casual in their ownership responsibilities is reflected in a marked increase of discarded dog poo bags.
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.
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.
Coloured cord on granite boulder, Rosemorran, Zennor, Cornwall. 2017
The simplicity of construction of this 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.
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.
In the work 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 has been simply laid on the boulder (which took the effort of a whole five minutes) helps to reinforce this message, as the cord acquires qualities associated with the detritus of our instant gratification throw-away consumer culture. The fact that the cord is plastic reinforces this further. However, the brightly coloured plastic actually looks quite pleasing on the rock, so the work is also saying that humanity’s imposition of artificiality onto the environment may have a positive side to it, at least to us (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? Hence some of the ambiguity in this piece.
The rock is on low heathland behind my house at Rosemorran, Zennor, Cornwall.
Horizontal Line: Cord stretched along the horizon: Rosemorran, Zennor, 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.
The work was created at my home at Lower Rosemorran, Zennor, Cornwall.
A work of environmental art in the form of a representation of the Earth in a kitchen waste bin.
From most angles (as in the image on the left, above) the bin looks like any conventional kitchen bin: however when viewed from the front (the image on the right, above) the inside of the bin gives the impression of being a dark void (due to the darkness of the bin liner). Visible in the void is a glowing representation of the earth, created as a back-lit image. The Earth seems to be suspended in the vastness of outer space, almost as if the bin was a portal to another dimension.
The work carries the message that the human race is treating the earth with contempt and that we are effectively placing the planet itself in the rubbish bin.
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.
A version of this work was shortlisted for the Royal Academy Summer Exhibition 2022.
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.