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The creativity of recycling: when plastic becomes art

Updated: Jul 7, 2020

Can plastic from simple waste become an artistic element? The term "plastic" itself derives from the Greek plastikḗ (tékhnē) and means the art of modeling, forming and creating shapes. This material was the inspiration for many artists who made their works starting from waste and packaging. A truly innovative way of making art, which Jane Perkins, Veronika Richterovà and the artists of "Cracking Art" have developed by recovering objects and transforming them into artistic masterpieces.

Jane Perkins and the works of art born from recycling

Jane Perkins, defined as the queen of creative recycling, is known for creating artworks made with waste materials. Last year in July she participated in the art exhibition "La Ri-Forma dell'arte" (“The Re-form of art”) in Rome at the Centro Commerciale Est which had recycling as its main theme. The visitors of the event had the opportunity to reflect on the reuse of materials with respect to the surrounding world.

The British artist draws inspiration from the objects found, using shells, toys, buttons, beads, and jewelry as a means of reinterpreting the works of art. Her artistic career began in 2006 when, after graduating in Textiles, she decided to devote herself to the "translation" of famous works of art in an innovative way, focusing on the ecological approach and presenting a thesis on the application of recycled materials in art and design. The artist's philosophy is based on the idea that there is no concept of "waste" in nature. Indeed, everything that is discarded, if it is of natural origin, is assimilated by the environment and put back into circulation. This is an important lesson that we must learn from nature: "to produce objects and goods that can be absorbed by the environment and even be transformed into works of art". At the photographic exhibition, the artist presented 14 works, enriched by accurate descriptions containing curiosities and anecdotes about the creation of each canvas.

Each painting is made with waste materials, taking advantage of the shades of each object used, without ever using painting or other colors. Her works reproduce paintings of Renaissance and contemporary art: the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci, The Girl with a Pearl Earring by Johannes Vermeer (about 1666), the famous impressionist painting Starry Night by Van Gogh and the Five Sunflowers. Moreover, The Kiss by Gustav Klimt (1907), and The Great Wave by Hokusai, a famous Japanese artist.

Veronika Richterovà and sustainable PET-art

The Czech artist Veronika Richterovà has defined her artistic creations "PET-art". PET is the abbreviation of polyethylene terephthalate; the material of which plastic bottles are mainly composed. Since 2004, Veronika has traveled to over 76 countries and has collected thousands of bottles which she has transformed into art pieces. Indeed, the exhibitions in which she participated, both individually and together with other contemporary artists, were not a few. Her brilliant intuition was to realize that the heated plastic becomes mouldable and any shape can be obtained. In her hands the plastic bottles are reborn in splendid, lively, bright forms: flowers, plants, trees, animals are her favorite subjects, creating a fantastic universe on the edge of the surreal.

The artist's testimony: “The principle is very simple: each PET bottle tends to become smaller when heated, however, in my experience, it is difficult to regulate the process since the different types of bottles are of different quality and thus their behavior is often unpredictable. The work is always full of adventures, the final sculpture is usually the result of many experiments. The biggest advantage is that there is a lot of free material all over the world.”

Cracking Art, the art that "breaks" with plastic

The name of the movement derives from the English word "to crack", that is to break something so that it does not separate, but "cracking" is also a process of transformation of the oil that underlies the plastic products. Cracking Art artists have started, since 1993, a breaking movement with plastic. They move both individually, when each artist works alone telling his vision, and in a group. These artists exhibit their works and installations in Italy and abroad. The masterpieces, which mainly consist of reproductions of animals made out of recyclable plastic materials, are inserted in places of passage such as streets, squares, cities, as well as in various museums and contemporary art exhibitions. The most famous installation is the Regeneration project in Milan, where 12 pink plastic snails are "slowly" walking through the city center. Why exactly the snail among all animals? The artists of Cracking Art have chosen the snail as an ambiguous symbol of modernity. It is the graphic sign of fast electronic communication, it is also slowness, a form of opposition to metropolitan chaos aimed at regaining possession of one's life. It is an animal that carries a house behind it, and it invites the inhabitants of Milan to move slowly and slow down the pace to appreciate life.

And have you ever dedicated yourself to do-it-yourself to recycle materials? Share your ideas.

And if you want to start, you can take inspiration from these artists to create unique creations. Have fun by releasing your ecological creative spirit!

"Nothing is created, nothing is lost, everything changes."- Antoine Lavoisier


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