Monday, September 12, 2011

Melissa Cameron: Musing on a sustainable practice

Recycled objects in my practice - 2011

In my practice I choose to work with various materials, including recycled objects. Prefabricated metal containers appeal especially to me, not because of quirks arising from their pre-used qualities (in fact I sometimes sandblast them to erase obvious traces of their past), but because of their form, or their embossing, or their inscribed patterns. Using already worked material is akin to a collaboration.

I began working with these objects for three reasons; firstly they suited the scale and the method of fabrication I was working with; secondly, when I began experimenting with found objects, I tried deconstructing many objects, such as porcelain plates, nylon and bamboo trays and cork trivets, but it was working with whole containers that crystallised the concept. Thirdly, I wanted to exploit the fact that when sawing out interesting and intricate patterns from a sheet, there is always an equally interesting and intricate hole left behind. The rigidity and simplicity of a found object framed, and provided a foil for, the complex patterns of the void. The contrasting complexity of the forms sets up an interesting dialogue between the finished works.

Image: Plated Triptych I + II, 2011. Recycled chromed gilding metal powder case, 925 silver, stainless steel, photo courtesy Melissa Cameron

A methodical planning process of drafting, at scale, all of my works, ensures that they make best use of the material, so there little leftover, barring swarf. When I work with an object or container I generally design two works in tandem - a piece to be taken from the object, and another from what remains of object itself. If not making more than a single piece, the process then becomes more challenging to design, in that all of the motifs in a pattern have to be reconciled to form a seamless composition.

 Image: Acanthus Oval, 2010. Recycled gold-plated gilding metal powder case (half), 925 silver, stainless steel, photo courtesy Melissa Cameron

All of my works are propelled into three dimensions by the use of fine threads, of steel cable or silk, to give the pieces volume. This cold-joining system exploits tensile forces, to animate the works, and also make them easily disassembled.

 Image: Blue Tin Set, 2011. Recycled painted mild steel tin, 925 silver, stainless steel, photo courtesy Melissa Cameron

In these works, a more useful or symbolic part of the recycled object does not exist, and thus in the obverse, there is not a waste part.  In this area of my practice I refute the concept that waste is a necessary end product.  Waste as a concept is harmful to inhabiting a planet of finite resources, and so through this work I remind myself that I am responsible for what I use, and equally, what I choose not to. 

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1 comment:

  1. Wow! So fabulous. As a found object artist I have a natural tendency to use the items I find whole -- cutting them up seems to somehow be 'cheating'. However, I love what Melissa has done here and I might have to rethink my whole process!! LOVE IT!