Art is rubbish

In my upcoming exhibition ‘Void – The landscape of waste packaging’ I use rubbish as the basis and form of my sculptures. I also use everyday concrete to create these molds from packaging.

Throughout history artists have found beauty in the ugly and mundane and used the unwanted waste of others to create art. For me this is summed up well by a line in 1978 hit by Brian and Michael “Matchstalk Men and Matchstalk Cats and Dogs”,

He painted Salford’s smokey tops, On cardboard boxes from the shops”


Some of my favorite artists use everyday items in an artistic context. In fact my experience of art school included many ‘skip dips’ by myself and other art students, all of this in the hope that we could create an affordable and striking artwork. Creating something beautiful from someone else’s unwanted things is built into the DNA of all artists. Some of these thrifty and creative uses of waste items can be less obvious, such as using an old canvas to over-paint, something that the Old Masters did regularly.

Hew Locke – El Dorado – House of Windsor (2002 – ongoing works).


Hew says of his own work “I like how it looks. It is aspirational – in that I try to take the cheapest thing I can find and work it to make it look precious. The irony here is that the material I am using – such as the golden plastic toy weapons and jewellery – are trying to look expensive.” 

Rachel Whiteread – Embankment – Tate 2005


Marcus Leith writes “Whiteread often uses old containers of different kinds as inspiration for her art. In 1993, she created a life-size cast of the interior of a condemned terraced house in London’s East End, a work that led to her winning the Turner Prize.”

If its good enough for the ‘Old Masters’, Hew Locke and Rachel Whiteread then its good enough for me ;) Have you got any stories about packaging? Or maybe some artworks you like or have made yourself using everyday items? Please get in touch.


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