Tuesday, January 8th, 2013
Glenn West, an English artist living in Germany, thinks that painting in oil
on canvas now seems, as he puts it, “…a little dated. Technology and modern materials have moved on immensely, meanwhile artists are using techniques from five hundred years ago.” But that was only part of the reason he decided to work with plastics.
West says, “A painting in an ornate frame was designed to fit with the look and feel of the interior where it hung. This looked ok when combined with heavy gold and lacquered furniture, but nowadays interiors look completely different. They now combine modern furniture with plastics. Whether it is a state-of-the-art flat screen or synthetic leather on couches, plastic is everywhere. A polyethylene painting would not look out of place. In fact it is the logical next step.”
West took that step, and began to create art using polyethylene bin-liners, trash bags as they’re known in America. He originally called his plastic creations paintings, however on his just-updated website they are called meltings. He started experimenting with plastics because they were cheap and because people already have experience with them. He says, “They can recognize the material, often running their hands over the paintings to reinforce their recognition.”
While shopping, he collected as many colors of bin liners as he could find. Black, blue, and green were quite common in Germany at the time, then for Valentine’s Day his girlfriend gave him two rolls of red bin liners she found on the Internet. (West says, “Romantic, eh?” Yes, it is.) He started ordering other colors from the Internet and soon had a large pallet of colors to work with.
“I found I could use the different thickness of film in different ways, allowing me strong bold lines overlaid by delicate washes of near transparent
tones,” he says. A few examples are shown here, and West already has produced many more. “There are many different directions I could go now with this technique. I would like to work closely with a manufacturer of polyethylene to develop a more rounded palette of colors, colors like purple, pink, mauve and other more rare tones.”
I came across West’s work by following an Internet link to one of his most recent projects, one that surely can’t be called painting. Limbo, which has been dismantled, was a maze covering roughly one hectare (2.5 acres) in a forest near Annaberg-Bucholz, the city in eastern Germany where West lives. To create the labyrinth, 15 kilometers (9.3 miles) of stretch film was wrapped around more than 200 trees. Transparent film was used so it wasn’t scary for people inside it.
West says the plastic film created amazing effects and contrasts: sparkling silhouettes of swaying branches, shimmering lights as the sun set, the spooky atmosphere of a full-moon night. At post-sunset events, strobe and colored lights were projected onto and through the film. West wants to take the labyrinth to other cities and countries, to experiment with black film and other colors, creating mazes as different as each forest.
West, who signs his work GRRWest (Glenn Robert Ross West) studied at England’s Liverpool Art School and lived in Berlin for five years before relocating in Annaberg-Buchholz. He would like to base his studio there and exhibit worldwide, naturally depending on how many paintings he can sell. “Plastic,” says West, “is an amazingly creative material that can be used to make beautiful art-pieces. I hope to keep experimenting and see what else I can create.” More of his work with plastics can be seen on his recently updated website and on the Pictify Network.