WORDS & IMAGES: DORIEKE SCHREURS
I love art. And even though I am an artist myself, I still consider all my work to be possible waste. Why? Because I love nature. My fascination with nature, life, and the world around me has been with me throughout my childhood. But as I grew up and attended art school at the turn of the 21st century, my love for nature faded to the background.
Sustainability, climate change, cradle-to-cradle, bio-based, and other now common terms were unheard of then. As the years passed, I searched for beauty in simplicity, concentrating on the little things both in my professional career as an artist and in my personal life. More and more, nature has found its way back into my life and into my work. I have started to dig deeper and broadened my perspective. The relationship between human, nature, and sustainability have become recurring themes in my work. I have found beauty in the rough, pure burlap, the homemade gesso, the pigments.
I cherish these materials, the craftsmanship, and the cradle-to-cradle way of thinking and working because for me, image and content should strengthen each other, not contradict each other. Art that explores a theme like sustainability but is made with non-sustainable materials is, in my opinion, a contradiction in terms and the height of hypocrisy.
I believe that the art world should be progressive and innovative. But through years of doing research and forging my own path, I have found that when it comes to sustainability, the art world painfully lags behind.
There is still so much art being created with non-sustainable materials, even toxic materials, and artists aren’t taught to think about their production process. It is the art/end product that counts. The art world doesn’t allow itself to see work as possible waste.
While we have seen and continue to see positive change, integration of circular systems, and cradle-to-cradle production in many other fields like design, architecture, manufacturing, and engineering, somehow there is no room for discussion in the arts. Yet we live in a time where there is more art being created than ever before, by professionals, amateurs, and hobbyists. It’s an illusion to believe that all of it will be preserved for future generations. Some of it will be worth hanging on to, but let’s face it—most of it will become waste.
However, it doesn’t have to be this way. Much could be accomplished if the art world was willing to broaden its focus and consider the impact of the art-making process and the afterlife of artworks in addition to worrying about the end product. Only by seeing art as waste and therefore a possible problem can solutions be found.
And solutions can be found! It may sound strange, but I am very proud of now being at a stage where my work process is completely sustainable, the end result cradle-to-cradle. This means that my paintings are completely biodegradable, yet they can be conserved for centuries as well.
So after my personal research I am now taking things a step further. Sharing my thoughts, raising awareness, changing perspectives. Exploring possibilities to make real changes in the art material supply business together with interested, engaged businesses.
Sustainability, climate change, our relationship to the earth we live on and the species we share it with—these are the defining issues of my generation and of the generations to come. The art world should take a stand. It has an important role to play in this changing world.