These totemic sculptures were the next series of works following on from my assemblage wall works, which began as my creative medium shifted from abstract painting to working as an environmental artist, as a result of an artistic accident during the mid 1990’s. I was collecting driftwood, on a remote Victorian Coastline, with the intention of making furniture and stumbled upon vast amounts of plastic ocean debris.
The initial collection of thee objects, consisted of approximately 80 jumbo garden bags full of beach found litter.
When I first piled this collection up in my studio, I had friends drop by asking if I was okay!
However I knew that an unseen intelligence was at work and soon realized the potential of a giant palate. Then I began the selections of yellow coloured plastics to make up it’s own pile in the studio, then the red, then the blues, the rope & strings, the plastic coke bottles, the thongs etc. Soon the floor of the studio did resemble a giant painters palate. Seeing all this develop had the effect of sewing the seed for, I later had the notion of making assemblages of each of these objects once sorted this occurred to me as a natural extension of the process I was undergoing in the studio. This whole new palette of colour and shape revealing itself to me immediately affected me; I had never seen such hues and forms before wich enabled me to make new environmental art.
Since then – for approximately 10 years, I scoured Australian beaches for found objects, much of which I found as washed up ‘ocean litter’. I have since discovered this is a worldwide phenomenon, affecting beaches on a global level.
I bought these plastics back to my studio to sift, sort, and colour-code for my assemblages, sculptures and installations. As I worked with these objects, I became even more fascinated by the way they had been modified and weathered by the ocean and nature’s elements. My challenge as an artist was to take these found objects, which might on first meeting have no apparent dialogue, and to work with them until they spoke and told their story, which included those underlying environmental messages inherent in the use of this kind of medium.
My work is in a constant state of evolution. I see this largely as alchemical. It is the process of nature’s elements redefining the man-made that created the initial alchemy in working with these found objects, taking the objects beyond the mundane. The second step was achieved through the transportation of these plastics to my studio and the process of sorting and assembling. A further and more vital transformation took place as I assembled them. These found objects then started to tell their story and become transformed into artworks.
The central concerns of my work are with contemporary environmental art practice. I have for many years been working with found and recycled objects, most hand-picked by myself from somewhere along the Australian Coastline. In fact it literally amazes me to think how many times I have bent over to pick up the many thousands of pieces of plastic debris that made up that aspect of my art, each piece jostled around for who knows how long by sand, sun and ocean, their form faded and rounded by the elements.
The unabated dumping of thousands of tonnes of plastics has been expressed in my assemblages, installations, totems, digital prints and public artworks. And yet, despite my outrage at this environmental vandalism, I returned to the beach daily to find more pieces for my artist’s palette. In an uncanny way, these plastics, as I sorted them and arranged them in my studio took on an unspeakable, indefinable and quite a magical beauty, which always fascinated me.
I see that by making this art, it is a way of sharing my messages for the need to care for our environment with a broad audience. I feel that even if just a fraction of the viewing audience were to experience a shift in their awareness and consciousness about the environment and art, through being exposed to this artwork then it would be worth it.
This stems from the fact that I believe presently humanity is at a critical point in time, with our planet currently existing in a fragile ecological state, with global warming hastening unheard of changes, all amplifying the fact that we need all the help we can get.
I see the real need for the massive social transformations that are essential, to adequately deal with such crises as the depletion of fossil fuels and climate change. I hope this work can be a timely reminder to us all of the limited supply of these petroleum based materials, which is a direct result of our current collective global mass consumerism.
This is my way of making a difference, and at the same time I’m sharing a positive message about beauty that can be gained from the aesthetic experience of appreciating art, as well as giving examples of how we can recycle and reuse in creative ways. These artworks exemplify my commitment as an artist to express contemporary social and environmental concerns.
By presenting this art, to the public it will hopefully have people thinking about the deeper meaning of the work, in particular the environmental issues we currently face.
I hope these works will act as a constant reminder to people about awareness.
I would like them to find enjoyment the work on many levels and find themselves becoming identified in various ways with each of the artworks they see. I also look forward to the possible discussion that these works may generate as a result.
I say these things as being possibilities, bearing in mind as well that comments are regularly made to me about people’s consciousness, while walking the beach, being awakened after seeing my found plastic object artworks, similarly with seeing my recycled plastic bag series, people have marvelled at the creative way I am presenting the recycling theme in an aesthetic way,
With this in mind, I have trusted leaving the final alchemy of the work to the viewer with the possibility they may experience deep perceptual shifts and have a positive aesthetic experience as they interact with my art.