One minute you’re collaborating with John Malkovich the next you’re donating prints to Barack Obama. Sounds like a normal week, right? Well, it does if you’re Wayne Chisnall.
London based artist Chisnall is well known for his sculptural objects and boxes, but he is also an accomplished painter, print maker and illustrator with a long list of exhibitions and publications to his name. Chisnall’s work covers a variety of territory, but the artist says memory, containment and the physical and mental restrictions that possessions impose on us are key reoccurring themes. We recently featured his work in our post, Junk rock! The 7 greatest upcycled artworks ever and thought it would be cool to hook up and find out more about one Britain’s most exciting “trash” artists.
You’ve created lots of great upcycled art. What motivates you to create sculptures from junk?
As an individual I despair at the disposable/throw away attitude of modern society but as an artist I enjoy working with ‘loaded’ materials – materials that the viewer can either empathise or identify with. There seems to be something more engaging about a material when it shows signs of wear and interaction with its environment; it gives it more life.
Your sculpture Magnet consists of lots of old toys. What inspired you to create it and what emotions do you hope it will provoke?
Magnet is part of a series of four wheeled tower sculptures that I made with the intention of each piece highlighting different aspects of our attitudes to material possessions. By using plastic toys to construct Magnet I wanted to say something about this worthless/disposable attitude we have towards certain materials. Ironically it was the one piece in the series that people keep pointing out bits of and saying ‘Oh my God, that’s an original such and such and worth x amount’… which I kinda like.
Just because I’m the one who created a piece of work I don’t believe that I own the definitive view on its meaning. Once an artwork is out there it’s owned by whoever sees it – although the first time I exhibited Magnet four little lads seem to have taken this notion literally! The exhibition invigilator told me that on the opening morning of the show he turned around and suddenly noticed that my piece had gone and that these four young lads had managed to wheel the sculpture out of the gallery and into the street before he could give chase and rescue it!
How important do you think art is in highlighting green issues?
That’s a hard one. I’m not sure how effective anything is in highlighting green issues since so often the people that the message will reach are probably the people who are already listening. I think that for a message to reach beyond that group it either has to be done with humour or has to be hard hitting, which is more difficult these days as we seem to have become more desensitised to the impact of powerful imagery.
There’s a long tradition of “rubbish” art. How do you see it evolving in the future?
Rubbish is probably the cheapest art material there is and as we seem to be producing it faster than we can bury it there’s obviously an ever growing supply – so I think the tradition still has a long road ahead of it. I like the idea of crossing the boundaries between different practises so maybe something like a collaborative art and archaeology project; excavating land fill sites might produce some interesting results. With rubbish, like our production of it, the creative potential is endless.
If you could hang out with any artist who would it be and why?
The animated films of the Brothers Quay and Jan Svankmajer have probably had more of an influence on my sculptural work than anything by any sculptor so I would have to say those are the guys I’d choose to chill with. I grew up fascinated by the dark, dream-like worlds that they created and the way that they brought found objects and random bits of detritus to life. It’s only when I watch their films now, having not seen them for years, that I realise just how profound an effect they have had on my work today.
Have you got any more upcycled sculptures planned? If so can you give us an idea of what to expect.
I’ve just completed two new sculptures; ‘Orifice Tower’, a 2m tall sculpture, mostly made from pieces of early to mid twenty century packing crates from the Victoria and Albert Museum and ‘Planetoid 210’, made from scrap wood and soil.
And I’m currently working on a new piece that from the outside will look like a pixelated sphere made up of tiny wooden boxes and little windows but will internally be made up of a mass of interlaced periscopes and mirrored chambers. It’s sort of the lovechild of two of my earlier sculptures, ‘The City’ and ‘Cardboard Brain’.
A fascinating insight into a fascinating artist, we’re sure you’ll agree. But what do you think of “junk” art? Let us know here or at @Nokia_Connects