Repurposing the Everyday: The Metamosphosis of the Mundane

Nicholas Forrest
Nov 26, 2012 11:55PM

I am constantly amazed and intrigued by the way certain artists are able to take the most mundane and uninspiring objects – from pencils to belts to hay – and transform them into amazing works of art. I'm not just talking about the use of “found”, discarded objects here; what I am referring to is the metamorphosis of the domestic into the artistic.

The imaginative and innovative use of everyday items in works of art is something that has been on my mind since I first came across the work of Australian artist Lionel Bawden who creates incredible sculptures using groups of hundreds of fused-together coloured pencils.  By shaping and honing the blocks of hexagonal pencils, Bawden creates incredibly organic gestures that belie the geometric form of the drawing implements.

A number of juxtapositions and conflicts are presented to the viewer by Bawden which makes his sculptures all the more intriguing.  Not only does he challenge the way we perceive the connection between the artist and his tools, Bawden also creates an interesting sense of tension conceived through the creation of multi-dimensional, amorphous arrangements of objects that have clearly defined structures and a clearly defined purpose.

Similar forms of transmogrification take place in Japanese artist Hiroshi’s sculptures created from   old skateboard decks.  By altering an object with such strong cultural and social associations, Hiroshi is not only changing the way we view the skateboard but is also messing with the wider historical and socio-cultural taxonomy.

Tim Hawkinson’s Hangmanofmycircumference is a particularly delightful and witty work which is constructed of belts.  Layered one upon another to create the shape of a human figure hung from the ceiling, the belts go from a fashion accessory and means of securing one’s trousers to an actual component of the human figure itself.  Is the figure wrapped and bound with the belts or is the structure a hollow, ghostly impression of a life once lived?

Transforming a bale of hay into a sculpture that revives the “gestural brushstrokes of Abstract Expressionism” requires the talent of an artist such as Anselm Reyle.  In Straw Bale, 2009, Reyle uses a simple hay bale painted with chrome lacquer to create a physically simple yet conceptually complex work of art.

Perhaps one of the most amazing instances of re-purposing occurs in the epic installation Future Remmant, 2011 by Australian collaborative duo Sean Cordeiro & Claire Healy.  Constructed of a dinosaur fossil replica and a range of Ikea furniture items, the epic assemblage is a poignant comment that, according to the Museum of Contemporary Art in Sydney, alludes to “the layered debris of a culture obsessed with homewares and the sedimentary accumulation of material purchases over time.”

Nicholas Forrest
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Jenna Gribbon, Luncheon on the grass, a recurring dream, 2020. Jenna Gribbon, April studio, parting glance, 2021. Jenna Gribbon, Silver Tongue, 2019