In 1917, Marcel Duchamp (1887-1968) presented Fountain, a now infamous sculpture that has become an icon of 20th century art. The porcelain urinal – which is one of the best known examples of the artist’s “readymades” – was signed “R. Mutt”, and marked a radical rethinking of what art could be. For the first time, found objects were displayed in galleries – both unaltered and slightly modified. Duchamp’s idea was to present “everyday objects raised to the dignity of a work of art by the artist’s act of choice.” Since then, the approach has been harnessed, stretched and rethought by movements like Dada, Surrealism and Pop, as well as Young British Artists including Damien Hirst, Sarah Lucas and Michael Landy.
Paul Sawyers is a contemporary artist interested in “the potential of found objects to create improvised moments.” He combines sculpture and photography, picking discarded items from the everyday and placing them in new, unexpected contexts. In the following images, juxtapositions appear between manmade and natural, hard and soft. Metal sheets lie atop grassy fields and wrap around tree trunks. Bars bend and buckle against the weight of large rocks. Shards of shattered mirrors jut from gravel paths.
Sawyers continually plays with different shapes and materials, manipulating waste paper, card and plastic to create abstract forms and innovative framing devices. In these shots, otherwise overlooked subjects become the centre of attention – hovering above rolling waves or pasted in front of cloud-filled skies. The results are ambiguous, surreal and, at times, absurd. Here, Sawyers joins the ranks of creatives who have been pushing the boundaries of found objects – and what they can do – for over a century.
All images courtesy Paul Sawyers.