Saturday, 27 July 2013

Wondering in Wonderland

This is an invitation for all of you to join us in the magic process that metamorphoses scrap material, wastes, discarded items and so many other rejected objects into works of art. To the wonder of our eyes and senses and through the hands of talented artists, what seems to most of us to be merely trash turns into objects of sheer Beauty.

We have seen in previous posts how works of art can be produced from totally unexpected materials and items which had been doomed to oblivion, thus being recovered to a life of honour and wonder. In different parts of the world artists are more and more aware of all the potential offered by these materials and spending their time and talent in exploring them. This is a trend that has been growing and conquering an increasing number of followers over the past few decades.

However, much before the present time, artists who have, in the meantime, become famous and respected, had made their very first and bold attempts at using what was then regarded as unfit items to be included in the realm of Art. We are, for instance, thinking about the renowned Catalan genius Antoni Gaudí (1852-1926), who introduced colourful fragments of tiles – an illustration and a symbol of the importance of industry in his time – as his main material for the decoration of sculptures, as well as of buildings and other works then assigned to him. In fact, he was the first artist to use recycled construction waste, which has given his work a distinctive and unique mark. Most famous is his sculpture of a smiling dragon, stretching in the middle of the divided stairway at the main entrance of Park Güell. Children love it and few adult visitors resist touching and patting the beast on the head or taking pictures leaning against it, very much within the spirit of the intimacy Gaudi actually wished his art would trigger in viewers.

Interesting to discuss would be the fact that art made of recycled objects has been an ever-present feature in poorer areas of the world, such as Africa, India or Southern America, where artists resort to used, discarded items as their raw material to create artworks. On the other hand, in the world known as more developed and wealthy, or the Western world, this trend has become increasingly popular only in more recent years, when the concepts of sustainability, eco-friendly ways of living and the need to recycle became fashionable, as a result of the awareness about the dangers humankind is facing due to having intensively harmed the environment.

Yet another noteworthy difference between the artworks of the above mentioned distinct origins is the kind of recycled materials used by artists. Whereas in poor areas they are mainly made of items easily identified as responding to very basic needs, the wastes of a reality made of daily struggle for survival, in the West we can find discarded items which are evidence of a wealthier way of living. In both cases, however, and owing to the kind of material used in their creation, the art pieces carry with them a past (hi)story and tell us something about their respective places of origin.

Previous posts showing sculptures produced out of such materials offer us field for this analysis and food for thought. We expect to set our readers wondering, thus motivating them to comment on the subject of the present text. We further hope to have touched your senses and feelings, so as to encourage you to share your ideas with us.

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