Environmental projects

Washed up

Sura Medura Artist’s Residency, Hikkaduwa, Sri Lanka

On arriving at Hikkaduwa I was struck by the daily influx of washed up plastic on the beach. I considered each object, parts worn off with the constant attrition caused by the water and waves slowly eroding the objects and in some cases reshaping them. I wondered how long they had been in the sea and how far had they travelled. How much of the plastic had worn off and was now microscopic particles floating in the sea, being ingested by aquatic wildlife.

Some of the objects had an intrinsic beauty, discarded but still retaining enough of their former hope. I started collecting these washed up objects and looking at them later that week thought that it would be interesting to painstakingly carve each object in local wood. It was ideal chance to collaborate with a local carver. by replicating these found objects it imbued them with a new purpose and value. I wanted the viewer to see this collection of objects and consider their journey and how they themselves look at waste.

This collaborative art project has not only worked from an artistic prospective, but also on a personal level. The connections made with the people in Sri Lanka, particularly those I worked with on a daily bases has left a lasting impression and given me a real insight into the their thoughts and lives.  This particular project was undertaken in over six weeks working with Sri Lankan woodcarver Nalin Nalinda to create a series of wood carved objects copied from washed up plastic objects found on the beach.

Nalin and I worked together over several days, slowly carving out the shapes, outside the rain lashed down and rattled on his shop’s steel roof. It was really amazing to see the dramatic change in the skies as the clouds swept in from the ocean. By the end of each day we were both pretty tired, partly due to the change in weather and the fact that we had carved for nearly seven hours in the heat!

As I was about to leave one evening after we had worked all week on some new carvings, Nalin said that he had learnt so much from working in a new way and would never have imagined himself making carvings like this before. I replied and said that I too had learnt so much from working with him and understanding his craft. I smiled inwardly, delighted that we had made this connection so quickly through our shared love of craftsmanship and creativity.

The complete installation was exhibited as part of the Moving Out exhibition at Sunbeach Hotel in Hikkaduwa on the 24th March 2018 and later that year in the Briggait Gallery in Glasgow.

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