A talk by Mike Perry on his work “Mor Plas tig”
This talk by Mike Perry illustrates how the history of art continues to influence, and is still relevant to art made today with its focus, in this case, upon environmental issues.
Perry has given the title “Stories From The Sea” to this talk, a phrase appropriated from the work of the British artist Graham Sutherland whose pictures formed the basis for the exhibition “Stories From The Sea: Above, Below And Beyond The Tide” which was on display at Oriel y Parc in 2012. It is acknowledged by Perry that Sutherland’s work informed the title of his talk and that the fact this artist was based for much of his life in Pembrokeshire gives the connection between the two a greater relevance.
However, Perry’s work, Mor Plas tig, is basically a response to environmental issues which were not present for much of Sutherland’s life. Living, as he does near the Pembrokeshire coast Perry often walks his dog on a nearby beach. The amount of plastic he finds washed up on the beach, especially after a storm, he tells us is horrific. This I have witnessed for myself whilst walking our dog at Poppit Sands in Ceredigion. Perry says that some beaches are more prone to this curse of man-made flotsam with Freshwater West being among the worst.
In choosing to photograph the plastic he finds with a 10 x 8 large format camera the detail in the images is profound and what is to all purposes a grave danger to both the wildlife of the planet, mankind and eventually the flora is here given its own beauty. Perry recognises this dilemma but points out through anecdotal stories, one in particular involving the local Women’s Institute group, that by making art from these found objects more people become aware of the serious problems facing the world through this one form of pollution.
Compositionally the images have been informed by the Dusseldorf school founded by Bernd and Hilla Becher who would display photographs of water towers in grid formation. This, Perry notes, mimics the grids found on plastic boxes which are often washed to shore and says his “intention is to reduce the objects to their pure formal states separating them for a moment from any meaning beyond their sculptural presence. I present the objects as grids or in line sequence emphasising the infinite choice offered by our consumer culture and to provide an aesthetic framework where colours and forms can work off each other”.
Other artists Perry cites that are relevant to the grid appropriation are the photographer Thomas Struth, a student of the Bechers at the Kunstakademie Düsseldorf and Agnes Martin whose sketches of grids were probably made, he postulates, as a means to contain or illustrate her schizophrenia.
It is obvious to many of us that consumerism has gone berserk in the world today and now, when plastic is causing physical harm to our wildlife, being consumed as microscopic particles by birds and fish so much so that it is now entering our food chain it is of vital importance that artists and scientists alert the population of these dangers so that we can act now, possibly not to eliminate the threat but at least to stop it getting any worse.
Mike Perry’s website can be accessed here