Beach Plastics and Art

In a previous post, we have already showcased artists who used waste in their artwork. In this second post about Art & Waste, Camille Chirat, Brand Partnerships Executive at TerraCycle Europe, writes about artists who collect beach plastics and turn them into Art.

Plastic was invented at the end of the 19th century and its mass production started in the 1950. In only a few decades, our societies have become highly dependent on plastics, which are nowadays widely used across all industries. According to National Geographic, about 9.2 billion tons of plastic have been produced, and more than 6.9 billion have become waste. The study reveals another alarming figure:  8 million tons of plastics end up in the sea every year.

When they enter oceans, plastics degrade because of the water, the salt and the sun, and break up into tiny pieces, microplastics, which are a threat to marine ecosystems. To raise awareness and encourage citizens to take action against sea pollution, artists have chosen to give beach plastics a second life by integrating them into their work.

Ocean plastics Art on the beach

Some artists have chosen to create their artworks directly on the beach. By leaving the plastics where they found them, they aim to raise awareness and alert us to the huge amount of waste that can be found in nature.

The artist Gilles Cenazandi, for example builds sculptures of endangered species, created out of items collected on Mediterranean beaches. In the picture below, the polar bear made from plastic items, standing in the clear water of Corsica, sadly reminds us of the future that we are currently building.

Gilles Cenazandi
Polar Bear Lost in Cap Corsica – Gilles Cenazandotti (2013)

Fabrice Monteiro is a photographer from Senegal using fashion and art to explore our relationship with nature. In the photograph below, which was taken in 2014, the model is wearing an haute couture style dress made from fishing nets and beach plastics.

Fabrice Monteiro
SUntitled – Fabrice Monteiro (2014)

Alejandro Duran is a Mexican artist who creates art installations to highlight the impact of human life on nature. In his work below, debris washed up on the Mexican coast are turned into aesthetic yet disquieting pieces of arts. His photographs have been exhibited across the world and have won many awards. He also regularly organises conferences and educational workshops on marine pollution, to raise awareness amongst citizens.

Alejandro Duran
Gota (Drop) – Alejandro Duran (2011)
Alejandro Duran2
Algas (Algae) -Alejandro Duran (2013)

Beach plastic Art in cities and urban areas

To raise awareness and have a bigger impact on public opinion, some artists choose to show their work  in cities and urban areas, near shopping centres and consumer areas, which are at the heart of consumption society.

The New York architecture practice StudioKCA , for example, has installed a huge 12 meters whales in the Brugge canal, for the 2018 Triennale. This massive sculpture was made from 5 tons of plastic waste collected along the Hawaiian coasts.

Studio KCA
Skycraper (The Bruges Whale) – Triennale 2018 STUDIOKCA, photograph by Matthias DesmetSkycraper

Xicogaivota is a Portuguese sea-loving artist who gathers fragments of plastics collected on the beach to create incredible animal shapes. His puts together those fragments like a puzzle, without cutting, folding or painting them.

I can fly – Xicogaivota

Angela Haseltine Pozzi, is an artist and American activist who, in 2010, created the charity Washed Ashore, a project gathering 10 000 volunteers who collect, clean and sort out waste found on beaches. The waste is then given to artists for them to construct sculptures of animals affected by marine pollution. To date, 20 tonnes of beach plastics have been collected to build 70 pieces of art.


Beach plastics in museums and art galleries

Beach plastics can also be found in museums and galleries, as the work of these artists show us.

The Australian John Dahlsen refers to his work as “environmental art” and uses his work  as a medium to express his social and environmental concerns. In this triptych named Blue Rope, he aggregated fishing nets and pieces of waste,  reminding us that our oceans are threatened with plastics pollution.

Blue Rope – John Dahlsen

Pam Longobardi created Bounty, Pilfered, from 1000 beach plastics items picked up on beaches around the world: Alaska, Greece, Costa Rica, Hawaii, Mexico…The black colour of the sculpture reminds us that plastics come from oil.

beach 3
Bounty, Pilfered – Pam Longobardi

Finally, Mady Barker is an English photographer committed to the fight against marine pollution, whose work has received numerous awards around the world. The photograph PENALTY- Europe was made from 633 football balls found on 104 beaches in 23 countries across Europe in just 4 months. The football balls seem to float on the picture, as they would on the ocean.

beach 4
Penalty – Europe – Mady Barker

These artworks turn beach plastics into aesthetics items, sometimes realistic or abstract, and enable us to ask ourselves what plastics become once they have been thrown away. Through their creative approach to plastic pollution, these artists encourage us to look at marine pollution plastics from a new perspective.

Do you know any artist who are using beach plastics in their artwork? If so, please let us know through the comment section or drop us a message.

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