We have been seeing it for quite some time now, in all aspects of society: critical messages about overzealous consumption and environmental pollution. Recycling and upcycling have become necessary measures in the battle for a cleaner environment. The art world is also unable to escape this societal shift and we have also noticed this at Early Birds Art Gallery.
Upcycling, put simply, means that a product of low value is transformed into one with a higher value. Upcycling is not new to the art world. In 1908 Pablo Picasso drew on a used piece of cardboard and put a ticket on it. In 1912 he used old rope to frame his “Still life with Chair Caning”. Later on he incorporated the handles and saddle of a bike in his worldfamous sculpture “Cabeza de Toro”, 1958. But also in popular art movements such as Pop Art, Trash Art or Drap art artists reuse materials.
Upcycling art at Early Birds Art Gallery
At Early Birds Art Gallery we too have taken note of this message. Here you are able to discover some of our artists that upcycle materials in their own style.
There’s a beautiful story behind the aluminum butterflies of American artist Paul Villinski. Old cans found in the streets of New York are collected and are used to make the artist’s signature butterflied. As a finishing touch a layer of white, black, royal blue or even gold or silver paint is added. Villinski: “I try to give these objects that were cast aside and considered worthless a new identity and to create a new story with many layers. I want to take these damaged things with me and discover what imagination, dedication, risk, labour and enough love can mean to these objects.”
What Belgian sculptor Pieter Vanden Daele finds on the banks of the Scheldt – old leather, rusty nails, thin pieces of copper plate, leaves- he brings into his studio and uses them in his sculptures. He incorporates these materials into the original models of his fish and frog sculptures. This creates uniquely rough and extremely detailed surfaces on his sculptures.
Olivier Bertrand, one of our newest artists, also uses preloved materials. He collects cardboard boxes of different thicknesses. The thickest he uses to make the skeleton of his work. He also adds a clear message to his creations: “I like to choose strong animals, which at first glance appears to be contradictory to the frailty of the cardboard that I use. I like to use this duality in my own way to highlight the precarious situation of the animal kingdom.”
The most beautiful thing about upcycled art: the never-ending creative possibilities
The upcycling technique can be found in paintings and sculptures alike. The reused material functions as a carrier of the work or is used as part of it. It demands a lot of creativity and a certain level of technique to incorporate these materials. But the most beautiful thing about upcycled art are the creative possibilities that reach as far as imagination can go.
Sustainable art often conjures mixed feelings. On one side it highlights the downfall of our planet – the artists’ goal is to make people conscious of the impact we have on Earth.
But even stronger is the surprise they call to mind through their originality. The upcycling movement, in all aspects of our life and also in art, proves itself to be a powerful motivator to bring awareness to everyone about the consequences of our individual action on the environment.