Recycling in Art? It’s not Fake News, it’s actually Old News
What we understand as real art is usually something that should evoke aesthetic feelings and emotions in us. Can we say that reused items or items often damaged and not new, or in other words – junk, can be understood as art?
Let’s start with what recycling is meaning at all? This term refers to the re-use of used materials for ecological purposes. We can say about recycling itself that it is 3R – reuse, recycle and reduce. In art, it means the use of recovered or processed objects to create a new object with the features of art.
Art and recycling started to go hand in hand in the 80’s when recycled art was allowed to enter museums and galleries. However, the idea of using worn-out objects in art is much older. Recycled Art is not a new trend, though it is still considered as avant-garde. Perhaps it is because it hardly gets into normal homes even though it is an equivalent trend in art in galleries. You can even say that Recycled Art is a symbol of our time.
Terms such as “Recycling Art, Recycl’Art, Upcycling, and even Eco-Art” are used as an alternative to the term Recycled Ar. Artists working with recycled objects, Eco-Artists, transform the existing used reality into something completely different and new. But that’s not all this art is about.
Many artists are at the heart of the biological and social future of our land and have engaged wholeheartedly in this trend. It would be right to say that Recycled Art in contemporary art has strong connotations with education. This is the case when art is supposed to not only arouse emotions but to teach and pay attention to social problems.
Recycling in art is actually the transformation of garbage into real work. Because what else can it be called than work, if the fact is that, for example; old bricks become sculptures’ legs, earring caps and plastic cups create a chandelier. All old fabrics, clothes, metal tubes, engine parts, cans, buttons, plastic waste, packaging are subjected to creative recycling.
These newly processed items are hosted in the salons as works of art and are also used in handicrafts and jewellery. There is also a lack of installations in public space, amusement parks created on the basis of recycled materials.
Eco-Artists drew attention not only to ecology but also to consumerism and the well-being of modern society. In this sense, it is also one of the fields of art that has a “practical” sense.
The creators of the Recycled Art trend have not only artistic talent but also a social activist streak.
We can say about recycling itself that it is based on the 3R – reuse, recycle and reduce.
In art, it means the use of recovered or processed objects to create a new object with the features of art.
Since when trash became an Art – A bit of History
As I have already mentioned, the idea of re-using old materials for making handicrafts is not new. Nevertheless, back then, it had a different task – cost reduction and usable goals. But what about the trash in art?
The German designer Kurt Schwitters is considered to be the precursor of the art of recycling and eco-design. In the 1920s and 1930s, he led the Merzkunst movement. He designed interiors using recovered objects. His greatest interior designs are Merzbau made in few versions.
Merzbau were huge undertakings, requiring work and time. Schwitters, a bit like Gaudi, created bizarre shapes, vaults, caves and niches inside the rooms. In addition, he filled the room with reused objects.
He claimed – in the physical and ideological sense – that Merzbau contained everything that mattered to him. Kurt gave the new objects their new “faces”. He was considered a genius, but his designs and ideas remained unintelligible at that time.
In 1908, thanks to Picasso, the first recycled painting “Le Rêve” was created. The artist created a drawing on a piece of cardboard and then attached a label to it. So he used the rubbish to create the work of art. At that time, it was extremely innovative and even shocking move.
In 1912, Picasso created “Nature morte à la chaise cannée”, for which he used the reused rope. Right now for us, the idea seems to be not bizarre, but let us remember that it was 1912 and not 2019. Who for God’s sake will make the frame using garbage instead of ordering a beautiful and solid new frame?
In 1958, the sculpture was created, as befits a hot-blooded Spanish man, it was a sculpture of a bull “Tête de taureau”, the fragments from a bicycle were used.
Georges Braque and Picasso refreshed the ancient Chinese collage technique (method of using photo and newspaper clippings to create full images). The collage has become a part of modern art.
With the rest, I will add that we owe the Chinese to the spread of decoupage (originally the decorative art of Siberian nomads) and, as it is well known, decoupage also uses paper, photos, and napkins for decorative purposes. Again, we are entering the Recycled Art field.
Dadaists such as Marcel Duchamp also contributed to the development of the recycling trend in art. Actually, Duchamp overtook the development of the Dadaist movement. It was Duchamp who used the term ready-made, he used objects, which he did not create and which he brought back to life giving them a different meaning, the importance of the subject of art. Of course, his most famous work is the “Fountain” from 1917. The urinal was used, of course, a ready-made object that has become a sculpture. The fountain became a symbolic caesura breaking the classical understanding of art. An example of another ironic work of Dadaists is Man Ray’s Gift.
In the 1950s at Jean Dubuffet, he used the term “assemblages d’empreintes” for a series of collages created by using butterfly wings.
In the short term “assemblages”, began to be used in the XX and XXI centuries as art to identify three-dimensional collages made of finished objects. The work is composed of objects of various types and objects of everyday use.
Sometimes the items were specially adapted, processed. In the 1950s, the creator of “assemblages”, among others was Robert Rauschenberg, an American artist who had a huge influence on the Art of the USA after World War II.
During the studies, Robert Rauschenberg worked as a garbage collector, perhaps because of his interest in waste. He included worn-out objects in the compositions of paintings and called them spatial “combined painting”
But the stream of recycling in Art of the XX and XXI centuries had a slightly different meaning. The artists turned away from the traditional understanding of art and broke it with a provocative and ironic way. They basically moved the boundaries of what can be a work of art and made it endlessly. They put in the hands of contemporary artists the final decision about what is and what is not the work of art.
And today …
Modern art uses recycling materials for another reason. No one is fighting with the freedom of the means of artistic expression. The task of contemporary art is to pay attention to the problems of modern society. It is art in the service, not art for art, and here I see a significant difference between contemporary Recycling Art and those from the early 20th century.
What distinguishes this art, is the fact that a given thing is not the main subject in itself, but it is a component of a unique new whole.
It is also no longer art so iconoclastic as in the times of Duchamp or Picasso. Nothing shocks again. The concept of using a given object and creativity of the creator is more impressive than the material which was used by the artist. It is now not about the trash that was used to create a work of art, but rather how it was used and why.
What is more, I think that Recycled Art has moved further towards design and handicrafts.
The contemporary avant-garde of the Recycled Art trend is Yoav Kotik, an artist from Israel who creates amazing items from bottle caps. The start of the artistic path of Yoav Kotik began with the Zik Group. Artists closely associated with Bezalel academy of art and design, they were known for their performances in which they worked with used materials and called their exhibition “Utilization of space”.
Kotik, however, decided to go on an independent artistic journey and went along the way of the bottle cap. The artist gives various shapes to the caps, he polishes and combines them with precious metals.
Another famous recycling artist is Luis Teixeir. In his works, he uses, for example, worn hangers or disposable cups, vinyl records. Luis designs chandeliers. One of Teixeir’s the most interesting and well-known ideas is the commissioning of works on prisoners’ lamps. It gives these women the chance to earn money and also to learn new skills. It is a truly social activity in which art is subordinated to the good of the whole. As the noblest and more practical goal. Right?
Also, the Polish Melafor Group is very interesting. They participated in many international exhibitions, and the last collection of Recycling Art by Malafor in Milan made a real sensation. The collection was made of recovered paper sacks.
The Danish exhibition “Think Twice” of the Kolding School of Design and Aarhus School of Architecture students was held in Copenhagen in 2011. They showed their ideas of how recycled items can be used.
Young artists showed the possibilities of using things that we usually threw away into the rubbish without thinking. Great interest among others works by young artists were:
- The lamp that was made of a deck of playing cards, the author of which was Anna Karnov Pedersen.
- Biodegradable and fully recyclable stool made from scrap cardboard tubes, paper and cotton strings by Katsuhiro Kanzaki.
- Laerke Zesach Krabbe created the “Thrown Out”, a tasty and surprisingly strong chair made of upholstered baguettes of sliced bread, which were dried and reinforced with water glass.
Recycling in Art was also noticed in the Middle East. Mrs. Salwa Nabhan, and the graphic design faculty at Sharjah Higher Colleges of Technology in Sharjah UEA, puts a lot of emphasis on the need to use recycled products in our daily lives.
She says, “Installation Art is good for the environment because it takes everyday objects and transforms them into valuable artwork. This is because using raw or new materials can be expensive and people are limited with what they can buy”.
The students of this university have already worked on the creation of new works from recovered objects such as from wood or paper materials.
Eco Artists at the BeArte Gallery
The artists who work in the field of recycling art are Dmitri Ulianov from Ukraine and Szilard Barda from Hungary. Dmitri creates amazing 3D images often using only fused plastic. His works depict famous monuments of architecture, landscapes, and abstractions. Dmitri does not even add paint to his paintings but combines a variety of plastics to create the right shapes.
Whereas Szilard creates Painted Objects that are on the borderline between painting and relief. He uses natural materials for this, for example, a birch bark which he then combines with other material such as canvas. The artist makes a special frame. On this frame, he fixes pieces of birch and then arranges them in layers. Each layer is painted and the process continues until the final version is created. The process takes up to 4-5 weeks.
I will certainly expose myself to many, but for me personally, the art of recycling does not have the power of destruction as traditionally conceived art. I am probably conservative in this respect, but I think I have the right to do so.
Of course, I know that an artwork can be done with everything. However, an object ceases to be a work of art when it begins to be mass produced.
I see this trend more in the space of design and handicrafts. I am taking Recycled Art more as a movement for the benefit of the public with a practical and noble purpose.
I do not see myself furnishing my living room with shades of plastic hangers. However, I am happy to see them in the public space, eg tables with legs on wooden boxes, sunbeds made of plastic bags in parks, cafes. However, each of us decides for ourselves.
When recycled items were used for the first time and in their opinion, it was to overcome the rigid rules of art and I accepted it as works of art of historical significance. Contemporary Recycled Art goes in my personal feeling towards handicrafts and design. Mainly because all of them are easily reproducible works.
However, each of you deciding to buy this kind of art must know that it participates in a certain social mission. It is not only about having nice aesthetic objects, but it is also about being objects of educational and social importance.
It is also practical to use things that have nothing to hide here, or at least cost less. The price of old rusty pipes is lower than the price of marble. This is obviously not a criticism. I just notice different aspects of this idea.
Of course, buying a work of art from recycling items will not solve the problem of the whole Earth, but certainly, we will demonstrate our solidarity with the movement and we will help artists involved in the awareness of the role of recycling in social life.
For each of us, art using used items will have a different meaning. It may meet your interest or rejection. Certainly, however, this is an excellent proposition for modern and minimalist interiors, and for everyone who has the good of the Earth at heart and would like to manifest it.
Let’s be aware that artists or craftsmen involved in recycled artwork for the common good of the future.
Another of our artists using recycled material in her art – is Marina Maltezou
The following pictures were used for not commercial purposes and only for informational and educational purposes. Sources of photos and their authors are given in links or signs under the pictures.
https://www.carredartistes.com/en/blog/recycling-art–n158 https: //www.ecomena.org/recycling-art/