Rubbish Interviews: Renowned Sculptor and Artist, Robert Bradford

Commissioned by Repack to celebrate Recycling Week
Commissioned by Repack to celebrate Recycling Week

Thanks for taking time out in between your exhibitions to pen a few words for my rubbish loving readers!

Could you kick off by telling us about your particular area of creative expertise and explain how you found yourself amongst the rubbish in the first place?

I have worked as an artist and a painter in England and America for years and began making sculptures about thirteen years ago in Bristol, starting with large scale public art firework pieces, using scrap timber and tree waste.

I have always disliked the blandness of many of the traditional sculptural materials (steel concrete etc) and have experimented with various materials that have either been in contact with humans or nature before they came to me.

The plastic toy works began about five or six years ago in response to looking into my children’s toy boxes. The chance relationships formed by the toys interested me and the brilliance of their shapes and colours too. I was determined to find a way to construct larger forms using them.

You are clearly passionate about showing rubbish as a resource. Has the interest in your work been limited to the UK or are other countries switching onto this idea too? In fact, would you say any were ‘ahead’ of our thinking?

This particular series of works has attracted more attention than any work I have ever made previously. Within the last eighteen months I have shown work all over the world and now have collectors in six countries. Recently, my Paris based gallery Envie d’art sold six of my sculptures within three weeks and have just received a seventh. They say they have people lining up to buy or commission new works. In the next few months I will be exhibiting in Dublin, twice in London, twice in Paris, Amsterdam and Miami Florida.

I have just been doing a major advertising gig in Dublin for Repack, a recycling organisation in Ireland. There I have been showing the Plastic Family in their Brown Thomas 2 store on Grafton Street. Repack are a national organisation devoted to the recycling waste (initiated by the government I believe). All larger businesses must take part I believe.

Your work is stunning, vibrant and so colourful. What inspires you to start a piece and why do you favour recreating animals?

I want my work to be simple and direct in its emotional impact. I dislike pretension in art and in life. I am trying to make work that crosses the boundary between art devotees and those who never enter art galleries. I therefore try to ensure that whatever I am exploring at the time has some point of ‘entry’ for anyone and everyone, even if the ideas within it are complex.

What are your views on the apathy that still exists around the subject of recycling and how do you think we might combat it?

I think this is changing a bit. I am aware myself that as financial institutions wobble people start to reconsider what they do and what their priorities are and should be. I am more conscious of consumerism and waste than I used to be. I think it is ‘in the air’ of our culture now.

On a slightly sideways note, you use lots of toys in the creation of your pieces and I’m sure the peak oil crisis is something you’re very familiar with. Out of interest, how do you see the toy industry changing in the coming decade?

I have heard that in some places they are digging plastic out of landfills to reuse; it may be just a rumour, but as plastic is an oil-based making process, it seems likely to get more expensive. I look forward to the time when my pieces have actual value for their material as opposed to just creative value as art! They do become historical pieces over time.

What can we look forward to seeing in your future collections Robert and where are your forthcoming exhibitions?

I want to complete an Angel that I have been working on for a while and make a full-sized Superman (saviour figures for 2009) but at the moment I am behind on Dogs and Planes!

I have already mentioned the next few shows, details of these can always be found on my website which I update regularly.

Please feel free to have a look and contact me through the site or at the shows if you would like to.

Thanks for looking and taking an interest.