Picasso created his brilliantly simple sculpture the “Bull’s Head” in 1942 from the seat and handlebars of a bicycle. At the time, it was so radical that the sculpture was one of several pieces that had to be removed from an exhibition in 1944 at the Salon d’Automne after visitors were so shocked that a demonstration took place.
Picasso laid the groundwork for “found-sculpture” as a form of art and several artists at the Affordable Art Fair have shown how, in different ways, it can be transformative, sophisticated and witty, while also making a messages about the loss of scarce resources, natural materials and traditional skills.
The artist Paolo Bazzo, for example, uses printed paper cuttings from magazines, newspapers and catalogues to transform a series of chaotic mosaic-pieces into a recognisable image, while the designer Finn Stone uses a wide variety of materials including lego and toys, with his latest works wittily recreating well-known masterpieces by artists such as Leonard di Vinci from found materials.
At a smaller scale, Pamela Lawton adds lonely porcelain figures, ladders and other items to traditional crafts tools and equipment such as a wooden hand-planes, scribes, shuttles and a scientific balance to reflect on the loss of the manufacturing industry and traditional skills in the UK. “My work is produced using a broad range of ceramic techniques using porcelain and is a response to political, social or environmental concerns. In particular my work references how we use, waste and pollute water, the use of pesticides, loss of the world’s natural habitats and global warming”
Laurence Pool started his career in a pop band and still enjoys writing music but, as he says, “despite one of my bands being hailed as ‘the next Duran Duran’, it was not to be”. After a number of careers, he made a successful sculptural piece from model cars, and so moved from management consulting to professional artist. “This has been the most challenging – though significantly the most rewarding – period of my life. But, without doubt, the best decision I have ever made”. Works on show include both those made from model cars and also a three dimensional “wave” made from vinyl records, which perhaps marry his interest in music and art.
Serge Jupin uses found objects and vintage materials to create imaginative mechanical and robotic figures, combining science, art and technology. ”This wonderful collection of figures quietly clicks and whirs from a distance. It’s only on close inspection that the robot’s humble origins are revealed, lending wit and poetry to every piece of junk. Above all they are the result of much research work and artistic care. That’s why merely the turn of a key or flick of a switch is enough to get their mechanisms to start the whirring of their gears, and that’s all there is to it…for the memory, hours just pass in playtime.”
Paul Broomfield has had a long interest in natural history, taxidermy and curiosities and creates sophisticated assemblage boxes in the tradition of the nineteenth century but with a modern twist such as a vintage motor cycle helmet covered in goose barnacles. Is he showing how nature will always win?
A few artists turn this on its head and do the opposite by creating artworks that look as if from lost materials, but they are not. The Australian artist Ross Tamlin is one of those; he paints as if he is using found materials, so that from a distance the materials look old, but close up you can see this is an illusion on canvas. “My idea was to transmute traditional Australian corrugated iron into works of modern art. The corrugation in the painting is a visual illusion created by layers of paint. Most people can connect with these panels because corrugated iron is a familiar sight both in suburbia and the bush. However, the sense of seeing the traditional is contradicted by the contemporary signage.”
Similarly, the French artist Alban creates wall sculptures that appear to be made from old rusty pieces of metal, perhaps parts of aircraft. However they have been constructed from wood, plaster and resin and scale and the iconography has been distorted. “These ‘authentic fakes’ question pre-conceived ideas and human attraction for vintage objects that mirror our own ageing.”
The art critic Eric Gibson described Picasso’s “Bull’s Head”, now in the Picasso Museum in Paris, as “a moment of wit and whimsy …both childlike and highly sophisticated in its simplicity, it stands as an assertion of the transforming power of the human imagination at a time when human values were under siege.” The same is true of these and other artists using found materials, whether real or created, today.