Plastics are polymers with names that sound like tongue-twisters (Polyethylene terephthalate anyone?) Despite their weird names, they are everywhere: in almost every object we touch. Furthered by mass production and culture over the last fifty years, plastic is practical and cheap.
Yet plastics hide deeper, darker meanings behind their shiny flexible surfaces. Plastics have become especially synonymous with a growing concern for our consumerist habits, as plastic bags and bottles clog our oceans and our forests.
In art, plastic has recently inspired a lot of cool installation pieces, being such a malleable, as well as meaningful, material. Plastic art can comment on our fragile ecosystem, and be fun and tactile. Whether it’s salvaged plastic, or just the flexibility of the material itself: plastic in art is here to stay.
Uncanny Plastics- Human Faces in Plastic
Image credit: Playingwithbrushes
The decaying plastic of these broken dolls is creepy and shows how quickly plastic products become obsolete. Like the peeling away of a façade, plastic decay is uncomfortable to watch. Unsettling, it makes us realise how transient a material plastic is. We are used to seeing it in its most pristine condition only. Decaying, broken plastic- is there anything sadder in the world? It’s like the falling away of some optimist dream…
Image credit: Mary Ellen Croteau
An eye made entirely out of plastic transgresses an uncomfortable boundary between human and plastic. This beautiful eye made by Mary Ellen Croteau is part of her longstanding environmental art project: reusing unrecycled plastics to tell stories about people. Croteau’s work highlights the extent to which non-recycled plastic is clogging up our environment, but by putting plastics into a human message she does this in an aesthetic way.
Plastic Rainbow- The Plastic Colour Palette
Image credit: SimplyPlastics.Com
After research into coloured plastics and plastic technology on SimplyPlastics.Com, it became clear how important the plastic colour palette has become to art. In fact, some art forms like street and Pop art have been exclusively influenced by fluorescent plastic colours, and would have not developed without them.
Image credit: Plastic Forever
Since 1999 Richard and Judith Lang have been creating these vibrant and touching pieces of plastic art; all plastic they used is salvaged from US beaches. Despite the vibrancy, all the plastic is completely untreated (only cleaned) and for the artists it is the material’s “unlimited hues” that make it a “great palette of plastic”. Their work proves that staunchly environmental art can also be fun and contemporary (and colourful!). Check out some their latest inspirational work here.
Our Oceans & Plastic
Image credit: Amanda
We all know that discarded plastic is a huge environmental issue, affecting our oceans and its fragile ecosystem. Environmental art pieces like this made out of plastic are so important because they remind us about the consequences of our simple daily actions. Moving away from drinking from disposable plastic (water) bottles has been the focus of many environmentalist and recycling campaigns of recent years. These huge bottles made out of hundreds of smaller ones, highlight the expediency of the issue, as well as being fun and tactile.
Image credit: http://www.sustainablecherryhill.org/plastic-ocean-project-art-exhibit-and-lecture/
This majestic environmental piece is a parody of the famous Japanese Wave print by Hokusai. Here the traditionally pristine ocean is replaced by a murky and dense mess of rubbish. Recycling a classic work of art like this is ingenious, and has elements of the fun irony of 50s Pop art.
Breathing Plastic- Interactive Material
Image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/art_inthecity/
There’s something sinister about the plastic tentacles in this installation, rustling above you in an eerie blue glow. Here, plastic was the basis of an exploration of the human ecosystem. This interactive art installation from Montréal’s Art Souterrain in 2014, mimicked the rhythm of breath as you walked through it.
Though there is something slightly unnerving about it, this installation reminds us of how plastics are often used in medicine to simulate human bodily functions. Plastics are integral to modern medicine and have changed many people’s lives in the form of prosthetics.
So despite the obvious concerns surrounding plastics, their vibrant colour palette and widespread benevolent usage in medicine are inspiring. Have you got any quirky plastic-inspired art you’d like to share?
*this post was in collaboration with Simply Plastics.