Sustainable energy and the environment continues to be at the centre of political, economic and social debates. As discussions heat up, so does the planet, and contemporary creation has also joined the debate through the more-or-less defined movement of “Recycled Art.” Whether they are politically motivated, or simply walking in Duchamp’s footsteps, these artists are truly original in their creations. Through their artworks, these artists encourage their viewers to question the sustainability and suitability of artistic materials. In favouring perishable media, their works are rendered simultaneously beautiful and ephemeral. Artsper brings you 10 of the best artists working with recycled materials.
1. Vik Muniz
Brazilian artist, Vik Muniz, is central to the recycled art movement. Spotted by an art dealer in New York in the mid-1980s, he specialises in reproducing masterpieces with recycled materials. His materials range from rubbish, to shredded magazines, wires, puzzle pieces and even dust. Muniz creates large-scale pieces, whose compositions require them to be digitally projected onto the ground from a height. The film, “Waste Land,” is a documentary about Muniz’s project, that took place over three years in the world’s biggest wasteland; Jardim Gramacho in Rio de Janeiro. For this project, Vik Muniz worked with “pickers” who collected waste for the artist. The pickers then assembled the pieces into sculptures, which were projected onto the floor inside a warehouse. At the end of the project, the artist sold all the photographs during an auction event, and donated the proceeds to the pickers who participated to the project.
Successful artist, designer and illustrator from Florida, Derek Gores has become a master in the art of collage. He creates his works with shredded magazine paper, labels and other recycled materials. Gores starts by organising his materials by colour, and then creates images from them. Gores mostly depicts portraits of women, or daily life scenes inspired by the world of fashion and design. Although his works are a mosaic of bits and pieces, they remain strikingly fluid and graceful.
3. Tim Noble and Sue Webster
Tim Noble and Sue Webster are a British artist couple who met in 1986, whilst studying fine art in Nottingham. Their iconic “shadow sculptures” are made from recycled objects and rubbish, which they then light up in order to cast shadows on the walls and surrounding ground. At first sight, the piece looks like a pile of rubbish, but once the light is cast, the shadow of the piece reveals an incredibly detailed and realistic image on the wall.
4. Guerra de la Paz
Guerra de la Paz is a collective of Cuban artists founded by Alain Guerra and Neraldo de la Paz. Based in Miami, they work from unconventional materials like recycled clothing, from which they create very colourful sculptures. Their pieces are often interpretations of classic artworks, and frequently convey deeply political messages. Guerra de la Paz’s art questions modern consumer society, and the way we blindly use and discard objects that are still in good condition, such as clothes.
5. Nik Gentry
Nick Gentry is a London-based artist whose signature device is to recycle used floppy discs (the ancestor of the USB drive), on which he paints astonishingly futuristic portraits. His work is influenced by the development of consumerism, technology and cyber culture in our society. Gentry also uses used film rolls, VHS disks, and x-rays, which he skillfully integrates into his portraits.
6. Wim Delvoye
Wim Delvoye is a Belgian artist famous for his transformation of used objects into spectacular artworks. For his series on tires, Delvoye carved delicate floral and organic patterns into different tires. Although the tires kept their original circular shape, the result looked like it was made from cast metal or carved wood. Delvoye also uses metal, steel caps, or even dump trucks to turn his works into precious lace-like shells.
7. Khalil Chishtee
Khalil Chishtee is a Pakistani artist who creates life-size sculptures out of recycled plastic bags. This material is for Chishtee, a metaphor for “recycling our identity” and a way to face the obstacles in our lives. Chishtee’s work also questions the idea of value in fine art, where bronze, wood or stone are more highly regarded due to their historical context.
8. Subodh Gupta
Subodh Gupta is an Indian artist who lives and works in New Delhi, and makes large-scale sculptures from everyday life materials. He chooses objects that are particularly significant in Indian culture, and then recycles them by adding them in his installations. Gupta’s art is therefore deeply rooted in Indian culture, a culture that is rapidly changing due to globalisation. The objects he uses for his work already have a story, but Gupta adds another layer of meaning when he integrates them into his pieces.
9. Ptolemy Elrington
“I come across many things which have been abandoned and find something more in them than their intrinsic worthlessness.” Ptolemy Elrington is an artist based in the coastal city of Brighton, and his sculptures explore the damage caused by unsustainable resources. In using found objects from manufactured products, such as shopping trolleys or car hub caps, Erlington opens up a vital dialogue about the impact of waste on our environment.
10. Yuken Teruya
Japanese artist, Yuken Teruya, also explores the dangerous lengths of our rampant consumerist habits, transforming rubbish from some of the biggest capitalist names into mystical forests. Teruya creates his work through the ancient Japanese art of Kirigami, a variation of origami which instead of simply folding paper, also includes the cutting of paper. His work is included in the public collections of some of the most prestigious museums worldwide including, the MoMA, The Guggenheim in New York, the Charles Saatchi Collection in London and the Mori Art Museum in Japan.