THE devastating impact of plastic pollution on our coastlines will be explored in Scarborough Art Gallery’s new exhibition, ScarboroART, from September 15 to January 6.
Four Scarborough artists, Kane Cunningham, Rachel Messenger, Justin DL and Janet White, have been commissioned to create original artworks either made from or inspired by plastic waste objects found on the Yorkshire resort’s seafront.
Each new piece is based on artworks from the gallery’s permanent collection depicting a seascape or coastal scene. Looking at these works through a contemporary eye and in the context of the growing environmental concern, the artists offer a creative response to plastic pollution on a regional and global scale.
Born in Manchester, but long resident in Scarborough, Kane Cunningham has created Rise And Fall Of The Tide as his reaction to the seascape collections, with particular reference to the work of Henry Barlow Carter. His work looks back over time, examining the collection and its impact on Scarborough residents, against the backdrop of a changing environment.
For her inspiration, Rachel Messenger has chosen Scarborough Lighthouse At Night With Full Moon by Walter Linsley Meegan and Scarborough, Castle Hill and Harbour By Moonlight by Henri Philippe Neumans: three works that depict the shore at different stages of the evening.
Her piece, entitled Disused, was prompted by the debate surrounding the overuse of plastic bags and non-biodegradable found objects either left or washed up on Scarborough’s beaches.
Justin DL’s series of six 2018 pieces, Moon-Coast-Flotsam/Jetsam, replaces the image of the sun in Scarborough Castle (A Matchment) with the moon. In the 350 years since the Scarborough Castle scene was painted, there has been significant change, brought on by human pollution and global warming affecting the coastline and seas. In Moon-Coast-Flotsam/Jetsam, “the human leaves an impression of their pollution within the scene; subtle but discernible to the keen eye”.
Scarborough’s coastline: the inspiration for the ScarboroART exhibition at Scarborough Art Gallery
Janet White first saw John Atkinson Grimshaw’s painting Burning Off when she moved to Scarborough in 1986. In that work, a flare has been lit for a boat in peril in the South Bay, to guide the crew as they navigate a stormy sea to reach safe harbour. In turn, White sees today’s news as a different kind of flare, a warning that our seas and marine life are in danger from a polluting surge of discarded waste material.
In her installation Awash, she uses manufactured or worked materials gathered from Scarborough shores, with these objects showing the immense power of the sea in its impact on the coastline and its defences, its allure to people and industries, but also its vulnerability to plastic waste that will take thousands of years to break down.
Alongside the new ScarboroArt exhibition, Scarborough Art Gallery is hosting a series of beach cleans with organised groups in the area. The found material will be used by the artists in educational workshops during the exhibition run.
Venues and volunteer manager Julie Baxter says: “As a society we’re becoming increasingly aware of the damage that plastics cause to the environment. Taking a stroll down Scarborough’s coastline confirms the impact it is having on our surroundings, with the plastic objects that you find washed up or strewn on our shores.
“With this exhibition, we’ve had an opportunity to do something creative and practical to address this; firstly with a beach clean and then to put the discarded plastic objects to use in the creation of striking and original art.
“By responding to the seascapes in Scarborough Art Gallery’s permanent collection, the four artists we’ve commissioned are each inspired by their own thoughts and concerns about the impact of plastics on our coastal environments. Through these diverse artworks, we hope to challenge visitors to think about their own use – and in highlighting the problem of waste objects that have been found on our beaches, ensure the care of our beautiful Scarborough coastline.”
ScarboroART will run at Scarborough Art Gallery from September 15 to January 6; opening hours, Tuesday to Sunday, 10am to 5pm.