Damian Massey: Artist of the Week
Updated: Oct 20, 2020
This week we will be exploring the sculptural practice of Damian Massey, exploring why he makes sculpture and how he makes them.
Damian is an artist based in Stoke-On-Trent who creates sculptures focusing on up-cycling waste materials to present them in new ways. If you want to find out more about Damian's artwork you can read our Q&A below. You can find more images of Damian's sculpture @damianm.art. You can also find a selection Damian's sculptures exhibited in our online exhibition Locked-Down over at the Oddball Gallery.
Can you briefly describe your art practice?
Exploring areas of over-consumption and societies preconceived consumerist ideologies to buy short lived products. I focus on the disposal process and the rebirth of found objects, creating sculptures that uncover the economic value between art, product and waste. The work focuses on consumer waste being excavated from local areas and I rely on the journey that it takes to explore my surroundings to dictate what form the work will take next. Presented in their pure form whether that be an altered or unaltered state, their presentation conveys a broad insight of our own perception and relationships towards value, product and waste in today’s society. In a consistent state of flux, works are always being dismantled and rebuilt to form new ideas; my practice thrives on the ability to reuse my palette over and over until I am aesthetically satisfied with the materials final body, giving me the power and control over its existence.
What is the importance of your work exploring over-consumption and why does this topic interest you?
As the world population is in a constant growth, the demand for products increases and in turn environments are being crippled by our unused, unwanted waste. Right now, rich nations devour 28 tonnes of material per year per person, this included plastics, metal and deforestation. That’s four times more than ecologists say is sustainable. There are many ways to reduce these figures but one which I am concerned by is the excessive use of product buying which inevitably end up in landfill due to their short live spam or by using less of it forcing companies to create long lasting products that last 30+ years instead of the 10. This may not stop the drastic impact of unwanted waste reaching landfill or ending up in local fields and parks, but I believe it’s time to start the discussion. I’m particularly interested in the recycling of products being used within contemporary sculpture and how this has an impact on the current issues. As my practice is in a consistent state of change, no material I use to create goes in the bin, I reuse and recycle all that is present and at times being overwhelmed with material and objects. I believe artist can make change, if we took the steps to reuse and recycle what we have we can begin to diverse opinions surrounding waste and the lifespan of products being made, reducing the unwanted waste we see around us today.
What projects have you recently completed?
Development has not stopped, and I am still currently experimenting different areas of exploration, Examples are shown below and on my social media: @damianm.art..
Damian Massey, Keep Me Wet, 49 discarded cardboard tubes, strapped with wire and grey fabric cloth. The condition of the Tubes has been purposely created to significantly decrease the material life quality, 100 cm x 65 cm, 2020.
Damian Massey, Non-Specific, found mattress spring and discarded toys and consumer waste stuffed through the crevices, 53 cm x 54 cm, 2020.
Why do you make this type of art and what drove you to pursuing a practice in sculpture?
Since as far back as I can remember I have always had a fascination towards what society consumes and throws away when it is deemed as ineffective. I have this memory of when I was around 12-13 years old and I was playing in the local fields near my parents’ home and I stumbled across this black bag with an action figure piercing through, I took the contents home and kept it for a number of years later. I remember feeling a sense of duty and care towards the items found in this black bag, this led me to begin questioning my own relationship between product and waste. As years went on and the progressive concerns surrounding waste and the environment became more of a topic of discussion, I began to turn my own distinct relationship between product and waste into immortal sculptural representations of how I see waste as a source, rather than its uselessness and short lifespan others may perceive it to be. I chose my medium to be that of only consumer waste and not modern day industrial materials such as concrete, steel, wood , as my connection with the found object makes references to my lower class background and always having that desire of duty of care towards inanimate objects, specifically those that have been rejected by society. Pursuing this discussion surrounding management of waste in a consumer society and our relationship towards inanimate objects in the home began at the moment of finding that singular black bag. The significance of this moment in time had a radical effect on my own views and perceptions of the society we live in, I found that I was no longer engrossed in consumer ideologies but more intrigued in the negative effects we as the consumer has on the encompassing environment we live in. This compelled me to embark on this exploration of waste, product and sculpture, by taking waste out of context of the neighbouring environments into a gallery context radically alters the perception of waste and questions the significant value of the sculpture being presented. This inevitably questions; If works are being created from consumer waste, does it hold the same industry value as other sculptural forms being created from current, singular standardised materials such as concrete, wood, metal?
You have described that your practice involves the exploration of authenticity. Can you elaborate on this concept?
Benjamin Walters first used the term in his essay ‘The work of art in the age of mechanical reproduction’ where he describes an artwork to have authenticity and presence in time and space and a unique existence to where it is being placed, therefor the value of the work shown is greater of that a reproduced work of art. For this reason, I speak about my work to maintain authenticity as the work shares similar significance due to the unique place, material, shape and conditions to which they were created. In most cases the work is created on site and can rarely be recreated over and over in the same condition, this is due to the change of circumstance and conditions of the place it is presented. Initially exploring this notion of authenticity due to its ephemeral presence.
Damian Massey, Object (Suspend), found ripped rug with Discarded grey paint added, dimensions vary, 2020.
Is there a piece of art that you are most proud of creating? Why?
As with any work you have your successes and your failed experiments. The work ‘Embody me, 2020’ For me was a critical move in development process. I found myself to be surrounded by all this material and objects and I felt a sense of being entrapped withing my own waste and surrounding me on social media were people posting about their painting projects and the impulsiveness of just tackling something unique. I applied this perception to my spare room filled with material and threw fragments of old works and spare parts together to form a structure that expressed the ambiguous and impulsiveness emotion I was feeling that day. When creating ‘Embody Me,2020’ I would think about when I was a painter and how each application of the brush would drastically change the image. I would come to use this process of creating depth and tone within the final structure. I look back and I was destabilising my initial thoughts about object, form and presentation and this act of impulsiveness had positive results for my growing practice.
Damian Massey, Embody Me, (Object 1), discarded armchair, stripped and put back together with the addition of consumer waste, 95 cm x 119 cm, 2020.
Is there an element of art you like or dislike working with? Why?
Working with waste, I thrive in the processes leading up to the final piece; The Excavation, cleaning, stripping and rebuilding. The bond between the work and the artist is collaborative and seductive in the sense that each fold, knot is created by hand and evident is the memory and decision made. As each waste element differs from the next you learn more about material properties and what gives them that firm or soft texture this then creates a strong correlation between the body and object.
What kind of artists influence you the most?
Inspired mainly by artists who use colour, form and push the boundaries of space, artists such as Matt Calderwood, Tim Noble and Sue Webster who’s works uses a variety of objects and waste to create dynamic structures. Matt Calderwood unusual structures using found objects inspired the works of ‘Embody me’ due their ambiguous yet meticulously thought our placement. Tim Noble and Sue Webster have always been an inspiration within my work, although figurative, the use of waste within their work ‘Miss Understood and Mr. Meanor, 1997’ inspired me to be less cautious surrounding chance and control and allow for the material to dictate shape, form and colour. Similar work by Mike Kelley and his use of bold colour and use of extensive use of consumer products, ‘MoMA PS1,2014’ inspired the work of ‘One’s Pit, 2020’ with the excessive use of waste woven onto the mattress to create a picturesque object.
Damian Massey, Object (Thrust), pieces created from a metal stair gate and discarded fragments from carpet underlay forced through tight entry points, 79 cm x 69 cm, 2020.
Artists everywhere have had to adapt to the sudden impact of COVID-19. Has your practice changed in any way during this time?
During the pandemic my studio space has significantly reduced to the spare room. As a sculptor this creates challenges as you are limited to the size and ambition of your work, but I have not let that impact my thought process and ability to go out and find new objects to work with. Of course, you are limited to the people you can encounter but I have extensively developed more communication through online chats and social media through people who are willing to donate their old unwanted goods. This has meant some works have been significantly reduced to small scale, but this has not stopped me testing boundaries and ideas.
You have stated that ‘The experience of the object is greater than the finished form’. Is your artwork more about the process of making rather than the final art object?
Once excavated, the process from waste to sculptural form is significant. The waste goes through a rigorous process of cleaning, stripping and rebuilding to strip back the imprint of the manufacturer. This allows room for manipulation and a new singularity to be formed. These singularities articulate a forceful distortion between product value and how waste is identified within the gallery. When the work is presented, the significance of the objects visual aesthetics is important, this emphasises the journey the waste has taken from the moment it has been excavated to the moment it is transformed into a piece of work. Formally, I relish is the texture, breaks, colour and distortion of the materials transformation as it speaks of identity and memory. As the work focuses on the behaviour of the consumer and the relationships we have with inanimate objects, I rely on the consumers personal experience of the finish form to identify the shift from product to waste then ultimately into sculpture.
It has been great to discuss Damian's practice and see how he approaches creating unique sculptures from discarded materials, creating beauty out of trash. It is amazing how the discarded objects can be completely transformed and the original form is almost completely unrecognisable. We look forward to seeing what Damian makes next.
You can view more of Damian Massey's work and contact him here:
Instagram Handle: @damianm.art
If you are interested in being featured as an Artist of the Week you can fill out a short application form here.