Someone asked me a couple of days ago why I painted on so many pieces on what you might term rubbish. It is true, I do, I paint on bits of wood found on the street, canvases that others have just thrown out, canvases that I’ve had to stitch back together, I paint on old doors, on cardboard, on unwanted vinyl records, I make a point of painting on and working with on other people’s unwanted “rubbish”, I was surprised at the questioning, the implication was that i was just being a cheapskate, that I only did it because I was broke, that if I had the money I’d be driving around in a Rolls Royce and flying all over the world. “I wish you’d just paint in new canvas” he said, this guy, I won’t name him, is an owner of a reasonably well known London art gallery who contacted me asking about one of my paintings, seems he rather liked the piece but didn’t like the idea that the canvas had been stitched back together and that some of it might be a little worn and threadbare. He asked me to paint something similar on a new canvas, he offered to pay for a canvas and have it delivered, I pointed out that the stitching was a big part of the piece, I had hoped people would see the recycling as obvious, that the fact that it had been found in a skip and recycled was part of the piece he wanted, he seemed to think the reason I use so much recycled material was purely financial, he told me it “wasn’t really what his clients wanted”, he seemed a little confused when I said they didn’t sound like the kind of people I wanted to sell art to, “You’ll never get anywhere with that attitude” he said.
The reason I paint on so much unwanted recycled material is surely obvious? Waste angers me, using up the earth’s resources in such a throwaway manner really does depress me, the things I find in the skips of East London annoy me, I’m forever pulling things out and taking them to the charity shop, the two year-long 365ArtDrop pieces were surely very obviously about waste and recycling, they were asking people to question the things we just throw out or dump, surely that was obvious? Surely it is obvious why I pull used canvas or old frames out of skips, or why I paint on so many old records of pieces of cardboard, surely doesn’t need to be explained? Surely it is that obvious? Maybe even too obvious? I guess I could start painting Extinction Rebellion logos on it all but surely I don’t need to do that? No I didn’t paint a new piece for the gallery guy, he obviously didn’t get my art and his gallery rather obviously wasn’t for me (for several reasons), and no I don’t always paint on found material, I do most of the time though and it is a big big part of what I do and what my art is obviously about, it will continue to be, especially while I still live with all this throwaway culture in this city I currently live in. in this city where people just throw away so much, where new books or clothes or perfectly good computers like this one I’m working on right now are just thrown away (and not even thrown away in those recycling bins that are right next to the bin I pulled a perfect good box of clothes out of yesterday).
The #365ArtDrop18 piece last year was surely obviously about how we waste so much and about how nothing is actually rubbish, 365 paintings on found recycled wasted material left out on the street, surely that was obvious? I would far rather work on found unwanted recycled canvas than go to the shop and buy new canvas, there’s a certain satisfaction in reviving something that’s heading for landfill, but more than that it really is vital that we all start thinking a lot lot more about how we consume and how we waste and the things we just throwaway when they really should be at least passed on – actually no, we don’t need to start thinking about it, that’s wrong, we should be way past just “starting to think about it”, surely everything here is obvious? Surely it should be so damn obvious that I agree with pretty much everything the Extinction Rebellion movement stands for and I really shouldn’t have to be as obvious as to stick the logo on everything to make to clear, surely I don’t have to be that obvious? Surely?
Another piece painted on a found recycled canvas that was left by a rubbish bin on a Hackney street…