Monday, 16 December 2013

Recycle art -- by John Dahlsen

Primary Totems (courtesy of Sydney Powerhouse Museum) are 12 foot high piles of found plastic objects collected from Australian beaches, impaled on stainless steel. Commissioned for the Eco-logic exhibition 2000-2013. Originally an abstract painter, John Dahlsen won the Wynne prize for Landscape art at the Art Gallery of New South Wales in 2000. He was named the official artist for 'Clean up Australia' and 'Clean up the world' in 2000. 

Sydney Powerhouse Museum curator's comments: We Australians tend to see themselves as beach lovers, yet continue to throw waste and into the seas and waterways. The central theme in Ecologic is  that our actions have consequences. John Dahlsen's sculptures started by accident. He had asked the Victorian National Parks for permission to collect driftwood off beaches to make furniture. They said he could as long as he picked up the rubbish as well. John began collecting and sorting it off beaches and He ended up with thousands of plastic, foam and rubber items, which he meticulously collects, cleans, sorts, and assembles by texture, size and colour, presenting it either behind Perspex or as totemic stacks.

John Dahlsen collects and manipulates flotsam and jetsam that is carelessly discarded on beaches, from divers, picnickers, surfers, boaters and commercial ships. Much of it is thrown up by the sea onto beaches. His approach here is a new way of looking at the assortment of materials western society produces and discards. The glow sticks of divers form a fascinating story of deceit, betrayal and slaughter with a touch of pollution on the side. These colorful sticks are use by divers to lure fish to be speared, and then discarded -- a vivid illustration of the way Australians view the temporary nature of materials and the effect their behavior has on the environment.

Totems are one form of his work. They consist of steel poles with stacks of brown and black thong sandals, masses of coke bottles or same colored foam. There is something pleasingly ironic about art created from a standard Aussie icon, the thong.

Orange rope

His wall works take on landscape characteristics due to careful layering and placement of objects.

Maddy Hunter-Smith writes in the Sustainable Artists and Designers wiki, "After collecting ocean debris from Australian coastline, John Dahlsen meticulously collects, cleans, sorts, assembles and places these found objects by texture, size and colour. Once sorted, Dahlsen works long and hard to see how he can arrange his objects to create art that is both visually effective and that includes a meaningful message about the environment. This is done by Dahlsen carefully layering and placing the objects until something starts to come together. It is a very long process but his dedication and faith in himself allow him to create something beautiful. After researching [his art], I have been inspired to make a change in the way I approach environmental issues."

See for more examples of his work.

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