“The real beauty of the found object work that I create, especially when I use thongs, is that most people who view it have owned a pair, will enthusiastically scan this sculpture with the romantic and genuine notion that somewhere is an old pair of their thongs that they lost on the beach!
In terms of an individual project I would most likely look towards a larger one or ones. My favourite project in this regard is the ‘Absolut Dahlsen’ commission. I would have to rate this alongside the Guardian project as the two most favourite projects. There are a number of reasons why I come to this statement.
John Dahlsen’s work provides a vivid illustration of the way Australians view the temporary nature of materials and the effect their behaviour has on the environment. Culturally Australians tend to see themselves as beach lovers, yet continue to waste and discard into the seas and waterways, this harks to the central theme in Ecologic, that actions we take have an effect.
I continue to make works made from recycled materials including works from driftwood. I see the whole field is being wide open for me in my chosen material whatever that is. Mostly I work with recycled materials because I find them tremendously satisfying to work with, I love the look of most recycled materials.
I have been commissioned to make some large public artworks from recycled materials. The first of these was a brief from the Brisbane City Council. The brief was to use leftover roadside materials and make a public art sculpture as an entrance to one of its prominent suburbs, following a substantial realignment of the traffic entry to this suburb.
Recycled materials for me, have been a great source of inspiration. I keep seeing various possibilities as to how I can use recycled materials in my artworks all the time. It never ceases to amaze me how many ways that we can recycle and it’s really a great thing that recycling has become so topical nowadays.
My personal philosophy on recycled materials has come about largely through artistic accidents upon my part. When I say this, I mean to simply refer to my own experience and story about how I began to work with recycled materials in my own art.
You said as a child it was quite natural for you to go to the tip and to assemble something new from discarded objects. Do you think society, as a whole is less likely to do that now? Rather than repair and reuse things, we’re more inclined to just buy a new one?
Since the 50’s there’s been a new phenomenon. We’ve never been faced with this before. Things are instant.
Do you think there’s something inherently political about using recycled materials?
I think naturally there are some inherent messages in using these sorts of materials. It depends how you do it. I’ve been very cautious about using materials in a way that for me, is honest. My intention is to make something beautiful out of these objects.
Do you identify yourself as an environmental artist?
I’ve used the term environmental art. I’ve been coined an environmental artist. I want people to understand that the work has strong environmental themes in case they miss that. It’s not likely that they will, but just in case they have certain ignorance about the materials – just to make sure it brings to their attention the environmental issues. I don’t have a problem with the term ‘environmental artist’ or the notion of being part of an environmental movement.