Expect to be greeted by a riot of colour at the National Gallery when its latest exhibition – ‘Consumed’ – opens Friday.
Created by Marc Laurenson of Stoakd, each piece in the show is mixed media, featuring recycled materials and transformed by Laurenson’s imagination. The result is a collection that packs a visual punch and should appeal to children and adults alike.
“The National Gallery is thrilled to be hosting ‘Consumed’, an exhibition of work by Marc Laurenson,” said Maia Muttoo, senior education coordinator at the gallery. “Given the context of Marc’s work and the gallery’s own commitment to environmental awareness, the NGCI Education Department has prepared an exciting programme centred around sustainability. This will include interactive school tours on recycled art, panel discussions with environmental organisations and artists who prioritise the use of repurposed materials, family fun days, and a coral conservation lecture with CCMI.”
Early days of Stoakd
Originally from Edinburgh, Scotland, Laurenson began his art ‘hobby’ in 2005, officially establishing Stoakd as a company in 2015. Since then, Stoakd has made a name for itself with instantly recognisable, unique artwork seen at local markets and in private and public spaces.
It would be silly to pigeonhole the pieces that Laurenson produces into a single category, but there is definitely a strong pop art-influence to be found here.
“Pop art is very iconic, very bright, and appeals to a large number of people,” said Laurenson, when asked what it is about the genre that attracts him. “I originally got into pop art as I wasn’t very good at shading paint, so I would paint in block colours.”
‘Consumed’ is not the first collection of his work created from recycled materials, and even though there is an environmental message behind his art, he also confesses to being a bit of a ‘collector’ himself.
“My wife Pam calls me a hoarder, as I don’t like throwing things away,” he laughed. “I don’t collect these materials to hold on to them; I collect them so I can use them in artworks.”
Word got about, however, and as Laurenson became more aware of sources, so his store of supplies grew.
“I now collect unwanted or broken toys from the thrift shops as well as damaged books from the [Humane Society] Book Loft,” he said. “I even have people show up to my door with boxes of items they don’t want to throw away and don’t want to keep. So now I have a lot of items to use and I try and find creative ways to [incorporate them into my work]. My goal is to inspire more people to create recycled artwork and keep these items out of the dump (‘Mount Trashmore’).”
Secondhand shops run by charities such as One Dog At A Time, the Humane Society and the National Council of Voluntary Organisations make for great hunting grounds, particularly as the staff in the various locations are now well familiar with the artist and specifically put aside things they think he would like.
“Even though they are broken or unwanted items, I still buy the boxes from them to help the charities,” Laurenson said.
Apparently there is no concern of Laurenson running out of ‘junk’ anytime soon, as he has had to rent a warehouse for additional storage space.
In a way, the inspiration for a new artwork design comes second in the timeline for each new work.
“Once we collect the materials, we sort them into colours,” Laurenson said. “Then, when I come up with an idea on what I want to do, I go through the boxes I have already sorted and use whatever is there.”
Creating mixed-media pieces can be a time-consuming, complicated business, but it’s the front end of the process that requires patience.
“It takes longer to collect the materials and sort them than it does to create the artworks,” Laurenson explained. “Normally it takes 3-4 months to collect enough materials of the right colours and then 2-3 weeks to put them together to create the final [piece].”
Laurenson’s wife, Pam – an artist in her own right – assisted with the sorting process and helped him complete his total of 21 works in time for the opening of ‘Consumed’.
“I’m blessed to have Pam help me, as she is an amazing artist and we think alike,” Laurenson said.
Familiar comic book characters appear in a particularly attention-grabbing member of the exhibition (we won’t spoil the surprise). Laurenson is a fan of graphic novels, but also chose to incorporate them in one piece as the Book Loft had a lot of comics in stock. He bought them all to cut up and create a comic book-themed artwork.
It should come as no surprise that the artist Laurenson admires most is the late Andy Warhol, who was revered for his groundbreaking pop art paintings.
“I admire him not only for his artwork, but for his concepts,” Laurenson said. “His famous ‘Campbell’s Soup Cans’ is my favourite. The reason behind him making that artwork was that it was accessible for rich and poor people of his time and he knew that it would be easily recognised by everyone, which made it such a success.”
Mixed media has always been a well-respected category in the art world, but Laurenson feels it is particularly relevant at the moment.
“I believe now, more than ever, it will be more recognised, as we are seeing pollution on a grand scale and people are more conscious and want to make a change,” he said. “My goal for this exhibit is to inspire more people to find creative ways to recycle their discarded items that we throw away on a daily basis, and be more conscious of what they consume.”
Muttoo added,“This is an excellent show for all ages to engage in conversations that centre [around] the environment.”
| The ‘Consumed’ exhibition runs from 7 Nov.-20 Dec. at the National Gallery of the Cayman Islands. For more information, visit www.nationalgallery.org.ky.