When it comes to conceptualising a work of art, starting from scratch has always been a welcome option. Who can argue with a tabula rasa to allow creativity to truly flourish, each with its own distinctive flair?
Construct the same visual statement with paper, plastic sheets, cardboard boxes and repurposed bookmarks, however, and the material costs are reduced while its technical and design details remain very much intact.
And it’s a very attractive option that goes to show that raw materials are always malleable when an artistic mind is doing the moulding.
Mylar Sheet Spores
Rolls of polyester mylar sheets are used by renowned New York-based artist Tara Donovan to create a huge installation that resembles multiplying balls of spores. You’ll be hard-pressed to find something more menacing at any art gallery and she is just as adept at repurposing slinkys, scotch tape, styrofoam cups and drinking straws.
Reclusive and rarely seen in interviews, Donovan is a rock star among her contemporaries in more ways than one. Not only is her work often featured in upscale art publications, she is also the recipient of a slew of awards including the MacArthur Fellowship in 2008.
But it’s the seemingly harmless plastic sheets that is the most formidable of her untitled works at “mimicking the way of nature” and quite literally “the way things actually grow”.
Like an outbreak of a virus that could cause a global pandemic in the near future, there is, nevertheless, a mesmerising quality due to its ability to induce hypnotic susceptibility. Be awestruck or be very afraid. The choice is yours.
Diana Beltran Herrera is a talented Colombian artist who uses ordinary materials such as wire, cardboard and plastics to create her lifelike sculptures of insects, fish and plants. But it’s paper that the 32-year-old wields like a deity in creating birds of a feather that do more than flock together.
Photorealistic plumages are just the beginning as Herrera continues to push the envelope with exhibitions in Europe, Asia and the United States, in addition to various commissioned work that is nuanced in approach.
After graduating with a degree in industrial design at the Jorge Tadeo Lozano University in 2010, she dabbled in design primarily to “portray the ideal state of a thing” and to repair the relationship “between humans and nature”.
Her meticulous process combines the best that her technique has to offer. She also takes time to revisit her work. An example is a four-year-old Malaysian dwarf kingfisher that she retouched using watercolour and refurbished its beak.
There’s also the golden fronted leafbird. A native of Bali, the bird is a favourite in Indonesia due to their ability to parrot sounds and colourful green feathers. She nevertheless denounces owners who keep them in cages for their own self-regarding pleasures.
Now, this is the right way to install a reminder of where we left off that’s painstakingly quirky. Those familiar with Takahiro Iwasaki’s work will appreciate his ability to rework towels into haunting landscapes and the bristles of toothbrushes and deck brushes into miniaturised pylons.
His cranes fashioned from bookmarks sitting on top of seemingly random reading materials are part of his “Tectonic Model” series and is meant to “trick us to see the scenery of under-construction buildings”, perhaps alluding that there is beauty in unfinished industrial urban outgrowth.
The Hiroshima native is also aware of the destruction by an atomic bomb that ravaged his city during World War II and his works often allude to the notion of “fragile sceneries”. He still works in – a since restored – Hiroshima and his creations often appear fleeting and temporal.
It is also coherent with the Japanese artist’s design language and the propensity of scavenging familiar household object for his works. His bookmarks can easily be destroyed and discarded. And yet, while they exist, they merge sensitive engineering and proprioceptive reassurance that is a thing of beauty.
Far from a sprawling slum, it is urban planning at its most haphazard and intricate. That’s what Filipino artist Isabel Aquilizan and her husband Alfredo has achieved with discarded cardboard boxes.
Each little commercial building and residential abode is individually pieced together. There also pieced together satellite dishes perched on top of buildings, trees and street signs.
Depending on your vantage point, it combines the physics bending imagery from Christopher Nolan’s Inception and a bleak morality tale of isolation and overpopulation.
Cardboard is a fixture in the Philippines as a substitute product in all manners of life while in more affluent countries it is often considered waste and thrown away according to Australia-based Aquilizan.
Exhibited at the De La Salle-College of Saint Benilde in Manila, Here, There, Everywhere: Project Another Country is also meant to question “migration and dislocation”. It was originally commissioned by a Chinese organisation and is modelled on the city of Chengdu.
Coat Hanger Animals and Humans
David Mach has an odd fascination with coat hangers. He is also one of the UK’s most prominent artists as a result of sculptures that are made from easily accessible objects. But it’s that snarling gorilla composed of thousands of coat hangers that takes the cake.
Rendered fuzzy by the hook distorting its form factor, the result is a static outline of an oversized brute affectionately called Silver Skin. There are tigers, a cheetah called Spike, along with crucified humanoids and a lone astronaut. There’s a twinkle in his eye in what is 3D printing at its most primal.
He is also the man responsible for those tumbling telephone boxes in Kingston, London called Out of Order. And sculpted Gandhi, Charlie Chaplin and Betty Boop with matchsticks. But that’s a story for another day.
Cover Image: Flickr image by Diana Beltran Herrera
Writer | Jason Kwong
Jason believes that life is to be lived, not endured. And by living, he means assuming a stationary position on a La-Z-Boy and watching NBA basketball matches until a looming editorial deadline wrestles the TV remote control from his possession.