Art is a reflection of society and as society changes, so do the depictions on canvases all over the world. The austerity of Neoclassicism echoed the spirit of the French Revolution that took place at the time. Renaissance art reflected a time of great social change during the transition from the Middle Ages to modernity. And the invention of photography helped the shift from realism to more abstract artworks.
Today’s world focuses largely on individual creative expression, leading to unprecedented diversity within the visual arts. Artists have much more creative freedom than ever before. The sheer volume of personal stories being expressed may give the illusion that the world is too fragmented to make a collective statement. However, art has told and continues to tell us stories of what humanity is experiencing. And one common theme quickly gaining popularity is sustainable art.
Sustainability is an important ongoing conversation in the present day. As we grow more aware of our impact on the earth, we have developed numerous solutions to help slow down its active degradation. Professionals across many fields and sectors are starting to experiment with innovative and more eco-friendly alternatives with negligible switching costs. Whether it be the clothes that you wear or the products with which you clean your house, making eco-friendly choices has never been easier.
Visual rt is no exception.
It is worth noting that sustainable art has been around for longer than one might think. Artists have been actively working in this field since the 1960s under the banner of eco-art. These works have been mostly conceptual, large in scale, and avant garde in nature. A good example is Earth Art (or Land Art), which has been a huge part of this movement. Many artists challenged the traditional white-box gallery model by creating site-specific work incorporating the surrounding natural elements. A very notable artwork that accurately represents this is Robert Smithson’s Spiral Jetty, an enormous spiral built using 5,000 tonnes of basalt rock in the Utah desert. So, while sustainable artworks have been around for a while, most have been fairly inaccessible to everyday people.
However, as a more eco-minded generation of young artists steps forward, they are finding new and innovative ways to express their sustainability-themed beliefs in more accessible ways. Many artists are creating works portraying relevant subject matter or are doing so using unexpected, environmentally friendly mediums. These artists have scrapped typical mediums like paint for recyclable materials to create new and interesting mixed media pieces from recycled plastic, cloth, paper, and more. Even for those not looking to rock the boat too much, increased access to more environment-friendly alternatives in canvases, paint, and other craft supplies (like recycled plastic canvases) have also contributed to making the art world more sustainable. The final results are not only fitting for activists advocating sustainability, but also for individuals simply looking to elevate their living spaces.
Eastern and Central European artists are no exception. Contemporary artists within this region have a unique quality. As the first generation of artists creating without political restrictions, many are using their freedom to draw attention to this important topic.
The Polish abstract painter Jagoda Kalisz has been making her canvases from scratch, using plastic bags that would usually be discarded to create energetic, textured artworks. The Czech abstract expressionist Magdaléna Ševčík also stretches out recycled clear plastic and paints over it to create beautiful translucent pieces. The Slovenian artist Monika Slemc explores the relationship between man and nature in the digital age, often using unorthodox materials like recycled photo paper, textiles, and plastic to create a unique collection of visually compelling artworks. These are just a few examples from a larger body of artists who have challenged themselves creatively and given themselves the license to reuse materials to create works that not only make important statements about art, but can also tie living spaces together.
Art holds a mirror up to society, enabling us all to think long and hard about the values we hold dear. And right now, it is clear that what we should hold dear is the home in which we live.
We can no longer ignore the devastating impact of our negligence on the planet. As more artists volunteer for the necessary fight against environmental degradation, they provide us with an emblematic reminder, in our living rooms or office spaces, of all that we owe our Earth. Not all reminders need to be heartbreaking images of animals with plastic straws up their noses or burned-down forests. Some can simply be an interesting painting on stretched-out plastic that would have otherwise been discarded; it reminds us of all the beautiful ways we can take back our planet.
Works by the above-mentioned artists can be found at Victory Art – the one-stop shop to discover a diverse range of emerging artists from Eastern and Central Europe.