De-junk Rejunk!

Curated by Alison Bailey Smith
An Annual Exhibition of Recycled Artwork Created from Junk by Merseyside Artists
2nd - 20th July 2012 at Birkenhead Park Visitor Centre, 9am to 4.30pm

ART’S SPARKLING FOUNTAIN: A Review by Minnie Stacey

Intrigued by the title De-junk Re-junk, I arrive at the visitor centre and walk into the sunshine of community and ideas. The welcome I receive from Alison Bailey Smith and three other artists couldn’t be warmer. Straight away I have a favourite exhibit, until I can’t stop finding favourites!

With the ethics and economy of reclaiming everyday waste, this exhibition has been establishing itself over the last few years. The articles on display are like the sequins of a collective magic wand that’s gathered and transformed some of the stuff we send to recycling plants and items not currently being recovered. For De-junk Re-junk more than 30 Merseyside-based artists and craftspeople have combined impressive creative skills and the designs of their inventive imaginations. Moving beyond ‘make do and mend’, their artistic amalgams give waste a new lease of life.

Set up on stands built with old donated doors, used kitchen parts and wedding plinths, the show occupies charity shop frames, abandoned display cases, discarded cigar boxes and re-painted jewellery torsos. It includes a store of materials that visitors can take away to design their own re-creation and send in the photos to be posted on the show’s blog.

De-junk Re-junk proves that rejuvenating potentially wasted products for both functionality and design works well. Susan Brown softens the hard edges of a reclaimed mirror with a wide border made from recycled squares of fabric, and stitches a quilt from the left-over material of a curtain shop. Roy Lewis forms decoratively interesting and bespoke candle holders from motorcycle or any machine-type parts. Broken plates make up the show’s community produced mosaic sign.

The level of detail in the works is extraordinary. Satin in Alison Bailey Smith’s Wire Shoes is intricately woven over with the glisten of recycled wire and fine silver. She’s fascinated brooches, a hair slide and a necklace with webs of sheeny colours using old television wires. Brooches by Ann Ellis are about transformation, the design in their layers of newspaper, plastics, beads and recycled copper are reminiscent of Gustav Klimt and Hunderwasser paintings. Judith Brown supplies gallery and museum craft shops with her lace-like jewellery juggled from hooks and eyes and press-studs.

The show’s junk comes at you with the impact of stories. Jacqui Chapman made Requiem in remembrance of a walk with a cherished friend who died young. She invites you to lift the lid from a dark heavy box made out of reclaimed floorboards, then flick through the essence of hill and forest landscapes with the ruffled feathers of woodland time in the handmade book that’s inside. Istra Toner is interested in the significance of social interaction and rekindles memories from the kind of things people kept under floorboards in Victorian times - photographs, newspapers and books - merging and re-emerging them as wood-varnished abstract collages. Mandy Oliphant has taken an old lexicon tray, placed tiny rolled-up pages from prayer books into the letter slots and made a printing press tree.

Damon Revans-Turner makes quality furniture from recycled materials for a living, and the characterful desk on display is his first ever exhibition piece. It was constructed from old floorboards (he has a way of splitting the wood and folding it out) and when you pull the doors reclaimed from the front panels in a church, the metal catches spring open with a chiming sound. The smell of his smoothed restored wood is like blown vanilla and an extract from a poem Damon’s written about it goes: “I’m made of wood where once there stood so many feet above the street”.

Bernie Howden cleverly evokes his mixed-media 3-dimensional collage’s title of Addiction and stimulates us with a surrealist tragedy of humour around a gritty subject. Framed by clippings of consumerist fervour, a papier mache face wears rose-tinted spectacles with a crack in them, the doll head of a discarded action man represents the fix a brain is bent on, a loose and play-lit ciggie hangs from the mouth and a lottery ticket is the beast in a belly.

For me, the centrepiece of this exhibition is Lorraine Hughes’ Cygnus. Themed around the location itself, each hand-painted leaf in this display of recycled foliage represents a plant in the park. Full of delicate patterns and sparkle, and layered with collage, it has dramatic presence - the larger leaves shimmering with gold, blue and silver are boating lakes with hand-painted swans and pink lily pads. This is a dazzling circus from someone who’s worked for Pinewood Studios, The Liverpool Everyman and the BBC. It’s amazing to find out that making the longer leaves begins with splitting a clear plastic pop bottle into a shape like peeled banana skin!

Another stand-out work for me is Barry Canning-Eaton’s Magic Box, on display as the big grotesque trick of a magician who has used recycled water tanks to saw a copper woman into three sections. His Tri-elevated Sphere also struck me as a perfect piece of public art.

Exploring rubbish informs creativity. Former engineer Theresia Cadwallader discovered that the insides of tomato puree tubes are coloured with a golden lacquer to protect them from fruit acid and she’s fashioned these into rosettes for her sweet handcrafted brooches. She loves birds and I love the smoothness and sweep of her swallow brooches - they’re made from the copper of water tanks and rubbed and burnished for lucid gold-edged, green and black colours. Each one is a handmade treasure, glossy with the pattern of skies.

This art community’s meta-materialistic stance sees Michael Walker effectively present garish masks from the cooled gunge of melted plastic bottle tops with Onomastic. Julie Dodd’s Hedera Helix is time-lovingly cut from milk bottles and could be a chic garland for any special event. Mary Bryning takes map scraps and re-presents them with a precious focus - using fabric and machine stitching she brings a human emphasis to the grids we all live in.

Exhibits are for sale at a range of affordable prices. By the second day, Canidoptera - Margi Adams’ butterflies hand-cut from aluminium drink cans - could have been sold three times over. Susan Brown’s Goose Stretching Its Wing, a beautiful blue and white reduction linocut using leftover floor tiles and recycled paper, was snapped up at the launch.

Like Marie and Alison’s plain and simple box which explodes with fun on opening, this exhibition is full of the surprises of eco-conscience. It represents a creative community that will continue to grow, a place where I kept hearing stories about connective cohesion and friendship kindled in the linking-up that sustainable art can foster.

Further information about the many artists involved and what they do is available at:

Twitter: @minniestacey

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Sorry Comments Closed

Comment left by Theresia Cadwallader on 18th July, 2012 at 10:38
Glad you enjoyed the exhibition and I enjoy reading your review. Watch this space for Future de-junk re-junk events.

Comment left by Hanychinta on 10th February, 2013 at 12:56
I love this idea too, but the brooches can be relaly expensive if you need to buy a lot of them. You could always look to see if the women in your family have any they'd be willing to part with. It could be part of the something old or the something borrowed items.