Looking Beyond the Aesthetic: Embracing
Sustainability in Art

february 03, 2021
warping time, installation made by An using upeelsplayed atKala Ghoda rts Festival 2019

Art is a reflection of reality: it conveys a message, influences thoughts, opinions, culture and also reflects prevalent societal sentiments and ongoing issues. In a time where the climate crisis is threatening the future of our planet and sustainable practices are being incorporated in several aspects of our lives, it is only natural that art too should reflect that sentiment.

Sustainable artworks take into account the impact they have on the environment, in an economic, social as well as cultural context; it invites us to reevaluate our creative production and consumption practices. Works that are composed of locally sourced or all-natural materials, up-cycled items and do not cause harm to the earth’s natural resources in their creation, are among those that are deemed sustainable.

The true beauty of sustainable art lies in its ability to propagate messages of social change. As such, an artist’s contribution to the sustainability initiative goes beyond the use of sustainable materials, to the awareness that they create.

endless sheen, installation created by our team using up-cycled CDs, which are now mostly rendered useless,
to better reflect the contemporary times

Sustainable art calls for a reevaluation of the raw materials used in creating it. A popular choice for installation artists looking to be more sustainable could be giving new life to up-cycled materials. This also means that sustainable works are often more cost effective.Up-cycled art can be created by using materials that are no longer in use or are unable to serve their original purpose, for instance single use plastic, broken parts of cars or some other machinery. Rather than clogging landfills, such objects are given a beautiful new look and purpose.A large number of artists are embracing sustainability to create eye catching works of art, while also setting precedence for the art community. We thought we’d highlight a few that we came across and absolutely loved.

Aaditi Joshi. Untitled, 2016. 288 x 78 x 108 in. Courtesy Museum of Fine Arts, Boston.

Aaditi Joshi’s artwork highlights the use of plastic in Mumbai and its damage to the oceanic ecosystem. Through her work, Joshi creates experiences and physical interventions aimed at initiating dialogue around environmental issues and the importance of sustainability and up-cycling. Describing plastic as a ‘gem’, Joshi’s colourful installations feature plastic bags and LED lights.

Sakshi Gupta, Untitled (Xerox Machine), 2008, Metal, 92 x 150 x 60 cm. Courtesy Saatchi Gallery

Sakshi Gupta, an Indian contemporary artist, engages with scrap and materials to create pieces that include historical, spiritual and mythical concepts. These materials create their own history and evoke ideas of transience and resilience.

Out of Control, Sculpture, Yudi Sulistyo, Indonesia

Yudi Sulistyo, an Indonesian artist, is known for her realistic sculptures and public artwork. Her extremely intricate and realistic sculptures are made using various mechanical objects, common household items such as bottle caps and match boxes, and other mundane materials.

Spiral Jetty, Land Art by Robert Smithson

Another notable example of sustainable art comes from the Land Art movement, popularly depicted by Robert Smithson in his Spiral Jetty. The 1,500 foot long sculpture, located on the Great Salt Lake, is made using basalt rock, salt crystals, earth and water and is one of the first pieces to come out of this movement.

While sustainable artworks should ideally become the norm, there are instances where seeking this alternative is not entirely feasible. Despite a general awareness about the need for sustainability, some of us might not be aware of the direct impact of the materials we use or that their usage has become so commonplace, we see no alternative. Artists working in commercial landscapes might often have to hold back on their commitment to sustainability, a dilemma we ever-so-often face.

At the end of the day, what we need to do is take a step back and consider not just the emotional, but also the physical impact that we as artists are making on our surroundings. Promoting sustainable art works is a crucial task for the art community to be able to inspire change. The idea here is not to preach, but to share a sentiment we strongly believe in and to encourage others, as well as ourselves, to do the same.

Share article

Read More