In a new article on sustainable art, Artelier's art consultants spotlight artists from our Artist Walls collection who use natural materials and low-impact practices to create refined art for high-end projects. Each sustainable artist sheds new light on the possibilities for their materials, and expands the idea of sustainable art – in so doing, they demonstrate how eco-conscious luxury is more than a trend, and instead is the future of contemporary interiors.
With sustainability becoming a global movement, the need for low-impact design solutions has rarely been greater. Private clients and international businesses alike are looking towards innovative new concepts that create less of an impact on the environment, whilst not compromising on luxury. Yet, now that cutting-edge design favours natural materials, refined simplicity and exquisite craftsmanship, luxury and sustainability need not be mutually exclusive.
Sustainable artworks can bridge the gap between creating a stunning aesthetic experience and promoting sustainable design. As each artwork is an investment of time and is created by hand, the slower and manual way of working is inherently more sustainable than mass-produced objects manufactured by machines. As individual makers, many artists also naturally pursue less wasteful practices, and have full control over their choice of ethically sourced materials. Unlike mass-produced products – which often rely on plastics and resins, or have longer and less sustainable supply chains – artists who are themselves committed to sustainability incorporate it into every stage of their process.
As leaders in commissioning sustainable contemporary art, Artelier’s art curators explore here the work of nine artists from Artelier's Artist Walls collection whose exquisite sustainable art is ideal for large-scale surfaces. Working across different mediums and practices, the artists share a common drive to create contemporary interpretations of the natural world through transforming humble materials into spectacular installations. These artworks become magnificent feature walls, which not only offer sustainable decorative solutions, but immerse viewers in abstract visions of nature.
1. Reviving Craftsmanship
In many ways, artistic processes have long been sustainable. Traditional crafts, such as wood-carving, embroidery and ceramics, were developed by ancient civilisations by utilising the naturally derived materials that they had to hand. Even when a raw material has to be manipulated as part of the process, such as spinning textiles into yarn or mixing pigments to create paints, these techniques are naturally low impact for their use of basic technology, and do not need electricity or complex machinery.
As such, many contemporary artists actively incorporate traditional techniques into their practice, becoming inheritors of ancient sustainable craft. These artists are pursuing sustainability as an inherent consideration within their work, and have been doing so for decades, rather than simply taking advantage of a design fad that favours sustainability. The resulting artworks, however, do not look like artisanal crafts, and instead are examples of collectable, sophisticated fine art, which makes them ideally suited to elegant interiors.
Peter Hayes – Raku-Fired Ceramics
Working with natural clays, Peter Hayes’ ceramic artworks encapsulate an inherent connection between art and the earth. Although he experiments with many different clays, he particularly favours locally sourced options – including clay he digs himself from the canals near his studio in Bath. Unprocessed and raw, this clay has been weathered by rain and frost, with roots having grown through it over the years. Hayes embraces these aspects, playing with the extraordinary textural variety that this clay produces. Unfired clay can also be returned to earth without the need for any complex recycling, and broken down naturally by water once again.
At a large-scale, his ceramic artworks have a monumentality and primordial power; rather than trying to disguise the material’s connection to nature, the pieces seem ‘of the earth’ and raw. Hayes is inspired by the idea that he is working directly with elements – sculpting with earth, shaping with water, and firing in flames. The Raku firing process that Hayes uses is an ancient Japanese technique, and is an especially dramatic use of fire as the ceramic works are enveloped directly in the flames. This technique leaves a visible trace of the fire on the finished ceramics, as the smoke marks immortalise the licks of the flames on the artwork’s surface.
Clémentine Brandibas – Embroidery
Embroidery and needlework is an ancient manual practice, and one which can offer limitless possibilities without the use of machinery. After many hundreds of hours of slow, cumulative work, the resulting large-scale artwork is an extensively complex and subtle masterpiece.
As the product of a rhythmic, hand-made process, the artwork is given its own organic rhythms and natural sense of fluidity. The gesture, created by the hand, is made into a visual poetry that evokes nature itself in abstracted form: images that go from microcosm to macrocosm, visions that seem to at once represent the micro-universe of crystals or intricacies of leaves, whilst simultaneously evoking mountain ranges or celestial scenes of the cosmos. The act of appreciating the artwork, too, provokes both a powerful impression at a distance and upon close-up inspection, which reveals the full complexities of the composition.
Clémentine Brandibas achieves this using the full diversity of embroidery stitches, many of which are uncommon today. In resurrecting them, she breathes new life into the ancient art form from an art historical perspective, and harks back to a time when art was made through slow and sustainable processes. As each artwork is custom made, for a project focused on sustainability the source of the thread and the artwork base can take priority, ensuring that the artwork is fully sustainable.
Laurine Malengreau – Textiles
The large-scale textile artworks Laurine Malengreau immerse the viewer in abstracted, dreamlike imagery created from an intricate blend of layered fibres. Inspired by the natural world, her textile wall hangings echo organic forms like the feathers of birds, or the movement of natural elements like water and wind.
While her technique has its roots in the ancient craft of felting, her innovative blending of wool and chiffon create a much lighter, non-woven fabric that has almost translucent qualities. Textiles have been used for traditional wall coverings by many ancient cultures, yet Malengreau’s modern technique creates an altogether more contemporary effect. Seeking a subtle balance between a blend of colours, Malengreau creates a palette that will best highlight the interiors of the project. She then blends the fabrics together through friction and temperature changes, which causes the wool fibres to open and for the layers to become encrusted in one another. The resistant textile created through this process does not need sewing or any other binders, and therefore the non-woven fabric is made without environmentally harmful chemical substances or glues.
Malengreau actively pursues sustainable practices in her choice of fibres. Each natural fibre is sourced from ecologically responsible origins, many of which are located close to Malengreau’s studio in Aubosson, France. Even if sourcing from elsewhere, she ensures short supply chains and prefers local sources. In addition, since her artworks are made from completely natural materials, they are also eventually biodegradable. Continuously pushing for sustainability within her workshop, she is also researching and developing sustainable dyes for her fabrics.
2. Celebrating Natural Resources
Other contemporary artists authentically engage with sustainability through using natural materials. Taking modest and widespread materials such as wood, they are able to creatively transform them into fine art. The artworks communicate the natural beauty of the earth’s resources, and deeply connect viewers with the environment by making them experience nature in new and surprising ways.
By using natural materials, the sustainable artworks effortlessly integrate into contemporary interiors, which now often favour a stripped-back aesthetic that focuses on natural surfaces, quality of materials and texture. The earthy colour palettes directly speak to the artworks’ connection to their material origins, encouraging an association with the natural world.
Benoît Averly – Wood Carving
Wood carving is an ancient and sustainable craft: as a renewable and biodegradable material, wood is an excellent option for low-impact luxury. Benoît Averly’s hand-carved panels and sculptures reference patterns that are inspired by indigenous crafts, as well as natural textures – such a tree bark, feathers, and water ripples. Viewers become absorbed in the rhythmic patterns, which subtly provoke associations with the natural world through an exploration of these diverse organic surfaces. The refined, minimalist mark-making and exposed wood bring nature indoors, and connect the space with the beauty of natural surroundings.
Benoît Averly’s practice is inherently sustainable; working from his studio amid the forests of central France, he carefully sources sustainable wood from forests local to his studio. Each artwork therefore has a strong connection not only to its maker, but to its locality. If a client has a particular request to use a sustainably sourced wood that is local to their project, it can further enhance the sense of connection between the artwork and its surroundings. To protect the wood, such as if it is placed in a humid area like a bathroom, a specialist and naturally derived protective wax can also be applied, making the artwork especially easy to care for.
Jennifer Newman – Painting with Minerals & Natural Pigments
Capturing the essence of movement in the natural world, Jennifer Newman’s paintings evoke geological forces and the passage of time. The monumental paintings are a distinctly contemporary take on murals, combining visions of nature with contemporary abstract art. At a larger scale, her work has an element of the sublime – an emotional experience of nature and its fierce beauty. As each painting is custom-made specifically for a project, Newman can create artworks that specifically respond to local materials, and the colour scheme of the interior design.
To create her work, Newman layers natural earth pigments, clay, oils and crushed minerals. Her use of these pigments authentically presents a vivid earthy colour palette, allowing the artworks to evoke and re-imagine the spectacle of vast landscapes. In using naturally derived materials, her work also comments on the abundance of beauty in nature's resources, without a reliance on synthetic substances. In this way, her materials are an especially sustainable option for paintings. To achieve the lustrous finish that is highly sought-after in luxury interiors, Newman creates shimmering accents to her paintings using sustainably sourced silver leaf.
Sara Dodd – Porcelain
Sara Dodd’s porcelain artworks offer a rare approach to ceramic wall art. Through intricately layering thin porcelain leaves, she achieves a refined decorative effect that is at once subtle and full of movement. Her sensitivity to use of colour allows her artwork to resemble natural imagery – from waterfalls and ripples, to foliage or sand dunes. These abstract references to nature speak to her choice of material: natural clay, a material that is literally of the earth, which is then fired to create porcelain art.
Porcelain is an incredibly versatile material, and inherently sustainable for many reasons. Porcelain’s raw materials – clay, silica and flint – are all naturally sourced, and widely available; they can also be extracted without a large negative impact on the environment. Working with clay is also not a wasteful process, as any discarded resources can be recycled and used again in different studio processes. Before clay is fired, any discarded clay can be reclaimed and reformed continuously.
While Dodd’s artworks appear delicate, porcelain itself is in fact an extremely hard-wearing material. Porcelain does not discolour, easily tolerates moisture, does not crack under cold or hot weather, and can withstand repeated contact. It is therefore is an excellent choice for maintenance for indoor feature walls, and in areas like spas which have high humidity. This also means that the artwork is made to last and not need replacing, which is in itself a sustainable approach to sourcing decoration.
3. Reimagining Foraged Materials
Many artists are naturally resourceful and low impact through a use of foraged natural materials. Conceptually, such artists are also often inspired by how the natural world can be represented to viewers, in a way that emphasises man’s harmony with nature rather than dominance over it. Within a sustainable project, these artworks bear special significance, as they symbolise the objective behind incorporating sustainability – a re-evaluation of how humankind interacts with the environment, and how we can better preserve and respect natural resources.
Artists therefore come up with ingenious solutions and creatively repurpose materials. In contrast to commercially produced decorative elements, artworks created by individual artists are inherently less wasteful due to this approach of being resourceful and repurposing what is available. In so doing, these contemporary artists separate the objects from their mundane context, and so rejuvenate and re-contextualise them to create fine art.
For a sustainable project, it is therefore possible to commission artists who therefore not only use low-impact materials, but indeed reclaim objects that would otherwise be wasted. Unlike commercial decoration companies, artists can push the possibilities of sustainability even further, and incorporate unlikely materials to stunning effect.
Stuart Ian Frost - Foraged materials, timber, feathers, cork
Artist Stuart Ian Frost creates site-specific installations from foraged raw materials. Each artwork has an intrinsic connection to a singular environment; he draws inspiration from local geographical features and organic materials he finds nearby, as well as looking to incorporate the culture and architecture of the area in the composition of the artwork. Frost's work draws inspiration from the environment, and this is in tune with his sustainable way of working: by using local, foraged materials, which are all natural and eventually biodegradable, his practice is inherently low-impact.
Frost’s pieces seek to present nature in an unfamiliar, yet illuminating way, encouraging the viewer to challenge their own perceptions of the materials. His transformation of natural resources – as humble as cork, bamboo or bird feathers – gives them a newfound vitality, and infuses them with creative potential that few could imagine. When taking a raw material, he considers their inner characteristics and qualities, and interprets their naturally occurring rhythms into complex structures and symbolic geometric designs that speak to material itself.
Wycliffe Stutchbury – Reclaimed Timber
Rather than sourcing new wood, artist Wycliffe Stutchbury consciously works only with fallen and forgotten timber – his wall artworks are created from delicate fragments of reclaimed wood. This low-impact approach lends the artwork a strong connection to its locality, as Stutchbury creates these patchwork artworks often from one particular source. He names his artworks after the location the fallen timber was found, offering a narrative for the artwork and its relationship to its environment.
Stutchbury’s practice is distinctly led his materials, and he assembles his artworks with great sensitivity for the natural textures and patterns present in the wood. Each timber has its own qualities and colour palette, and rather than imposing man’s concept of form onto nature, he seeks to enhance the ways in which the natural world is resistant to suppression. When working on a specially commissioned project, Stutchbury can use reclaimed wood that is local to the area, further speaking to the abundance of natural sustainable materials that can be foraged and crafted into evocative modern art.
A Commitment to Sustainability
Through their innovative work, each artist exemplifies the possibilities for sustainable art and solidifies the relevance of sustainable art solutions to contemporary design. Critically, however, their work is inherently and authentically sustainable – rather than following trends, they have long pioneered eco-conscious practices as a core principle of their work. Due to this longterm commitment to their craft processes, they are capable of creating artworks that speak to a refined aesthetic as much as to sustainability.
Many of the artists that Artelier collaborates with on Artist Walls likewise incorporate sustainability into their work. The overall collection is therefore naturally in tune with the guiding ethos of our own art consultancy, which prioritises sustainable practices at each stage of the process. Sustainability begins with the artist, yet for feature wall art or an art collection to be truly sustainable, all the processes and logistics that lead to the final art installation must also be low-impact. Due to our turnkey art consultancy services, Artelier is able to oversee each aspect of delivering a project, and curate art collections that genuinely resonate with a more sustainable approach to art in luxury contexts.
With over 20 years' experience, Artelier provide art consultancy for varied contexts, having delivered art for hotels, private residential, yachts and aircraft. At the forefront of the sustainable art movement, Artelier are specialists in sourcing and commissioning sustainable art and are able to deliver turnkey solutions for your project.
Discover our article on Art & Sustainability to learn more about our approach to sustainable art.
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