The Evolution of Function to Form
Artists are continually trying to reinvent the wheel, because as the breadth of modern art continues to move outward, no idea is too bizarre, and no medium is taboo. British artist Laurence Poole combines this modern philosophy of freedom with the ancient art school discussion of form and function. He uses banal objects to create beauty through repetition, eliminating the implied function of his materials by combining them in massive collages, or juxtaposing them in unusual pairings. He continues the eternal battle between aesthetics and purpose in his mixed-media sculptures and visual art, allowing the viewer to decide if simple elements can create complex and thought-provoking art.
In the above piece, composed of more than a hundred vinyl records placed next to one another to form an accordion-like sculpture, he directly questions the idea of obsolescence. Vinyl records have become a nostalgic niche for collectors and old-school music lovers, but their heyday as the premiere way to listen to music has definitely passed. By reviving them into a sculpture, which in no ways uses them for their original purpose, he begs the question of whether something can ever be completely useless, or whether deeming something obsolete or outdated simply shows a lack of creativity or vision.
Despite something going out of style or being replaced by newer technologies, items connote certain memories and visceral reactions from people, which is itself a new function that allows them to retain some inherent value, even if it is only a sentimental one. The same feeling is expressed in his sculpture, Smudger's Tools (seen below), which received critical acclaim at London's Other Art Fair this spring, and was ranked by a number of critics as one of the best pieces in that prestigious festival.
In the age of digital cameras, film cameras seem to be a thing of the past, but they are still used by some, and symbolize the world's obsession with capturing memory and open access to the artistic process for everyone. They may seem like antiques or garage sale fodder to many, but they represent an essential step in our collective history, and the condensed visual of 43 cameras in one sculpture lightly comments on the massive leaps in photography that have taken place in recent years since the advent of digital photography and smartphone snapshots. The bubble of popularized photography we are currently experiencing is on a similar scale, in relative terms, to the explosion of photography that handheld film cameras represented to earlier generations.
In his vibrant Jam series, Poole continues to balance form, nostalgia, function, and significance of old die-cast model cars in colorful and eye-catching traffic patterns. These works create instant associations in viewers; the pleasant memories of childhood innocence and toys clash against the adult responsibilities and frustrations of commutes and seemingly inescapable traffic jams. The function of the material he uses evolves into a new form which takes on new levels of meaning, for those willing to look a bit deeper into the intricate mind of a truly meticulous artist.
He explains that many of his materials are simply "found objects", reminiscent of Surrealist sculptures or Dada installations, creating art from overlooked or aesthetically barren objects, but the way he organizes them, whether they are "found" or not, eliminates any judgement of his work as being random or senseless.
Space Daisy is composed of recycled CO2 bulbs and craft sticks, and has the initial appearance of the sun, or a flower. Using CO2 bulbs, which are disastrous for the environment and actually increase the intensity of the sun falling on the planet, is a subtle play on his subject matter, ot at least what it initally resembles. This may or may not be the implication by the artist, but that is the best thing about modern art; it allows us to project our own knowledge and awareness of the world onto it, and hopefully gain perspective, awareness, or even a bit of tongue-in-cheek amusement.
Oscar Wilde is famously quoted as saying that "All art is quite useless" , and in practical applications, much of it is. However, Laurence Poole and many other modern artists challenge that sentiment by exploring the implications of conceptual art, and allowing art to serve a purpose in changing people's opinions, or broadening their mind to form connections and associations between art and life. Modern artists can often accomplish that by disavowing the old classifications of good art and bad art and separating themselves from classical judgements of aesthetically pleasing pictures.
Hundreds of British and colonial stamps in the form of the Union Jack may seem like nothing more than a clever homage to the artist's cultural roots, but stamps used to tell a story of culture and history, and the images were sometimes as significant as the faces on our coinage. Again, the sweeping waves of modernity have brought us e-mail, a much more impersonal mode of communication, that separates us not only from our cultural background in an increasingly globalized world, but also from one another.
So what do you think? Is his symbolism poignant and well-played, or would Poole's work be deemed "quite useless" by Mr. Wilde? If you dig the depth and fascinating nature of Laurence Poole's work, check out all of his ideas and conceptual work at his website, or even add some of his pieces to your own collection.
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All Images are subject to copyright by the artist.