Can Sustainability and Art Stand Together?

Poumon ©Christele Lefay - TiA Talent

As the world evolves to combat climate change, our societies are increasingly looking for more sustainable ways to function. Often, as consumers, we place pressure on companies to work to be more sustainable, however, we also seek to modify our own behaviour to help cut our own carbon footprints. How do we balance modification with passion, self-expression, and creativity? In other words, how do we maintain more sustainable ways of life without compromising our love of art?

One answer is to explore the world of Sustainable art. Sustainable art engages with the key principles of sustainability (ecology, non-violence, social justice) by using sustainable materials and posing questions about the environment through artworks. Sustainable art dates back to the mid-20th century, when artists increasingly sought to use natural, upcycled or recycled materials in order to create pieces. In more recent years, the art world has come to embrace sustainability. As we have seen in the debate over NFTs, there are increasing demands from artists to make art more sustainable, and sustainability is becoming one of the criteria by which experts and novices judge new trends. NFTs may make art more accessible and offer up opportunities to up-and-coming artists to make their mark, but they require a huge amount of energy to be created, which has led to criticism of this new medium.

If you want to discover more sustainable artists, but don’t know where to start, then look no further; here are three to introduce you to sustainable artistry!

Saule Suleimenova

Saule Suleimenova © Voices on Central Asia
Saule Suleimenova © Voices on Central Asia

Saule Suleimenova is a Kazakh artist based on Almaty, Kazakhstan. She celebrates Kazakh identity through her works and has created a number of public artworks throughout the world in order to champion Kazakh culture.  The rise in plastic waste across the Kazakh Steppe meant that the ecology and aesthetic of the Steppe was constantly changing. Rather than portray the Steppe as it is often imagined, a large, uninterrupted ecosystem, she sought to include the reality of plastic pollution in her artworks. In 2015, she started to use plastic bags and polycarbonate sheets to create her artworks. Saule’s work thus simultaneously reflects on Kazakh identity as well as the principles of sustainability through her use of plastic as her medium and the attention she pays to the ecological shifts in the Kazakh Steppe. Kelin initially depicted a traditional Kazakh bride, made from plastic, on a huge plastic sheet. It was hung over a street in Astana and chairs were placed underneath it so that the public could sit and look up at the piece. Since Kelin, she has used plastic as her medium in many other projects and global exhibitions in order to depict grassroots protests in Kazakhstan. Her upcoming project, Saga of Returnees, explores those who left Kazakhstan to neighbouring countries who are finally returning.

We will also publish an interview with Saule Suleimenova in the next article.

Olafur Eliasson

© Olafur Elisson - The Glacier Melt Series
© Olafur Elisson – The Glacier Melt Series

Olafur Eliasson is an Icelandic-Danish artist based in Copenhagen and Berlin. He is well known for his installation art, which often features light and water to create a sensory experience. Eliasson was born in Iceland and in 1999 took pictures of the glaciers across the country. In 2019, he created a well-known sustainable art project, called The Glacier Melt Series, which compares his pictures of Icelandic Glaciers with pictures taken in 2019. The stark difference between the sizes of the glaciers in the series was shocking not only to Eliasson, who had often thought of Glaciers as immobile structures, but to people around the world. The series also helped educate people on what Climate Change actually looks like over a relatively short period of time. Eliasson also created an interactive experience with his London based exhibition, Ice Watch. He placed blocks of Icelandic glacial ice outside the Tate Modern Museum and invited people to place their hands on them, feel them melting and experience the reality of climate change.

Maya Lin

Maya Lin © Smith College
Maya Lin © Smith College

Maya Lin is a Chinese-American artist who came to prominence when she won a competition to design the Vietnam Veteran’s War Memorial in Washington, D.C. at the tender age of 21. Since then, she has worked on multiple sculptures and landscapes. She has long been inspired by the environment, and has stated the environment has been a constant inspiration of her works. Lin combined her experience designing memorials with her ecological inspiration and created a memorial to species and places that are now extinct. What is Missing is made up of sculptures and a media exhibit, which means it is accessible from anywhere for anyone to see. She created it both as a memorial to ecosystems that have dissipated and as a piece that will inspire advocacy for climate change. Lin is currently working on a new project, called Ghost Forest, which is a memorial and reminder of the dying forests. She has saved 49 Atlantic white cedar trees and replanted them in Madison Square Park. The result is an eery, empty forest which echoes the barren nature of East Coast forests due to over logging.

About TiA Talent : 

We create meaningful connections that human all needs. We engage with a community of multinational emerging artists in developing their career in France and overseas. By supporting artists, TiA also makes art more visible and reachable to all.

Read here  to learn more about us.


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