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.
Kristy Kún – Sculpted Felt
Kristy Kún's practice explores the transformation of wool, as tufts of fibre shape into limitless sculptural forms through the energy of her hands. The tactility of the making process is translated into the sensual depth of her undulating compositions. This novel approach to constructing and mounting ribs of felt innovates an ancient craft.
With exquisite mastery of the subtle textures and tones of organic materials, Kún reveals patterns that echo visions of nature. Timeless imagery of water, shells, and wood grain emerge from her compositions – her pieces are animated with the rhythms of the environment, whose mesmerising effects encourage meditation.
Kún is an American artist working from her studio in Southern Oregon. Having pursued a lifetime of craft, she first trained as a woodworker with master craftsmen on the West Coast. Her work transitioned from wood to wool in 2009, yet the tactile processes, joinery techniques and construction of woodcraft informed her unique technique for felting. Kún has refined her felting for over a decade, to international acclaim.
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.