Contemporary environmental art sculpture. 5 Totems made from found plastic objects and stainless steel. Abstract recycled art created from plastics collected from Australian beaches.

Commissioned for Eco-logic exhibition on show between 2000 – 2013

The Powerhouse Museum Commission.

Powerhouse Museum, Sydney Australia.

The following is a statement from the Powerhouse Museum about the commission:

John Dahlsen collects and manipulates flotsam and jetsam from the east coast beaches of Australia. In his wall pieces John creates landscapes of colors, which on closer inspection turn out be discarded pieces of everyday plastic, spoons, dolls and figurines. John meticulously collects, cleans, sorts, assembles and places these found objects by texture, size and color. The pieces in the wall works take on landscape characteristics due to careful layering and placement of objects.

The process involved in creating these works is significant. Firstly find the ‘stuff’ that is carelessly discarded on beaches, from divers, picnickers, surfers, boaters and commercial ships. It is then rejected from the sea and deposited back onto beaches.

It waits on the sand to be swallowed by the beach or picked up by John. Through his creativity the stuff or waste becomes transformed into art. The abandoned materials become a pleasing landscape. Where plastic mimics nature, layers of plastics resemble layers of soil or an above ground horizon of ground, trees and sky.

John collects thousand of plastic, foam and rubber items. They are taken to his studio to be sorted into piles of similar texture and color. The glow sticks of divers form a fascinating story of deceit, betrayal and slaughter with a touch of pollution on the side. These colorful sticks are use by divers to lure fish so they can be speared; the sticks are used and then discarded. John Dahlsen’s work provides a vivid illustration of the way Australians view the temporary nature of materials and the effect their behavior 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.

We are all responsible, on an individual, council, state or national level. Originally an abstract painter John trained at the Victorian College of the Arts, John originally started making sculptures out of discarded plastic by accident.

He had asked the Victorian National Parks for permission to collect driftwood off beaches to make furniture. They said he could as long as he picked up the rubbish as well. John began collecting and sorting the rubbish off beaches and presenting it either behind Perspex or as totemic stacks. His approach here is a new way of looking at the assortment of materials western society produces and discards. Totems are another form of his work. They consist of steel poles with stacks of brown and black thongs, or masses of coke bottles or same color foam. There is something pleasingly ironic about art created from a standard Aussie icon, the thong. His works are featured in private and public collections in Australia, Europe and the United States. He was named the official artist for ‘Clean up Australia’ and ‘Clean up the world’ in 2000. John won the Wynne prize for Landscape art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2000.

2.2m x 50cm base each 6 totems

Artist Statement
See all available John Dahlsen artworks
Purchase Information