Spring Week 6/7: Environmental Series

This week, I began to create my week 7 piece. It featured four paintings on four plastic bags, depicting a sea turtle’s birth, life, and death from eating a plastic bag. There was also a manifesto written across the four bags:

“Plastic is versatile and does not biodegrade. It is cheap to produce and malleable. For manufacturers, it is a dream. For the natural world, it is a nightmare./ It kills one hundred thousand marine mammals a year. Enough of it is thrown away annually to circle the Earth four times./ Yet, the massacre continues because plastic is ‘useful.’ Wouldn’t the world be a better place if it was…useless?/ If it was, sea turtles wouldn’t survive predation from orca whales and sharks only to be poisoned by plastic bags. If we want to make plastic useless…why not make it art?”

It relates to my work from week 5 because it is based on Oscar Wilde’s famous quote: “All art is quite useless.” It also features a more developed version of the manifesto written on a plastic bag.

The message I’m aiming to send is that the world would be a better place if plastic wasn’t so useful. I’m also trying to portray turtles as beautiful, well-adapted creatures that should not have to suffer poisoning from plastic bags. I aim to communicate my ideas with a combination of media – by writing them in a manifesto, including painted imagery, and presenting it all as a physical installation, the piece encapsulates three different media and subsequently has more depth.

Across the three bags, there is a story of a sea turtle who grows to adulthood only to be poisoned by eating a plastic bag, adding another layer to the artwork. The goal of creating a character is to arouse an emotional response from audiences, thereby making the artwork as a whole more persuasive.

I was inspired by some of the manifesto artists I looked at in first year, and by some of Robert Gober‘s sketches – I love paintings that tell a story, and some of Gober’s work tells stories using imagery rather than text. I think the idea of the imagery telling a different story to the text is effective; it gives the piece more different aspects.

I feel this is a successful re-imagination of my week 5 work because it keeps the same anti-plastic ideas, but realises them in a way that involves much more colour, presence, and style. They were displayed on the floor to represent the fact that most plastic pollution is found on the ground. I presented the bags along with my painted face scrub, and according to my feedback it seemed unclear why the two were together; they would have been better off as two separate pieces.

The next step is to consider how to add more to this artwork. The elements that work are the labour that was put into it, and the message, so these are the elements I aimed to carry on.




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