A Contemporary Alchemist Reassembles Salvaged Scraps of Everyday Life

Emily Nathan
Dec 10, 2014 10:23PM

Born in Kent, UK, in 1972, Steve McPherson is a contemporary alchemist, synthesizing found bits of detritus into stunning compositions that evoke stained glass windows, illuminated manuscripts, and even topographical maps. Armed with a keen eye and a passion for the quirky charm of ostensibly banal objects, he seamlessly unites the micro- and macrocosmic, drawing on the minutia of our earthly lives to engage the transcendent.

McPherson’s body of work is multivalent, integrating installation, sculpture, assemblage, collage, experimental drawing, photography, video, and sound—and is often anchored by his practice of gathering and collating everyday materials that have been discarded or cast aside. His interest encompasses the grand and the diminutive, employing traditions of taxonomical display to explore concepts relating to knowledge systems and data collection.

Earlier works have included Drift, (1998) a sprawling arrangement of thousands of used books, spilled across the gallery floor like an ocean of words, and Logged (1998), a sea-soaked library of old tomes salvaged by the artist, piled against a wall in alternate states of decay. McPherson’s most recent body of work incorporates both the local and the global in abstract, vibrantly color-coded compositions of plastic flotsam and jetsam he has been gleaning for over 15 years from North Kent beaches. Wave-worn, sun-bleached, and scarred with unknown histories, these richly surfaced compositions, affixed to white dibond, look both forward and backward in time. Formally, they evoke artisanal craft and mosaic as powerfully as they speak to a digital cyber-age: complex networks of information that hold us together across vast and varied geographies.

Starboard, 2012
Matter No. 1, 2013
Combination Piece - Multi 5, 2010
Emily Nathan
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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