Holly V Maslen – Artist, Designer, Illustrator » PICK UP THE PIECES: ARTIST STATEMENT


The plastic collecting seed was sewn quite some years ago in Morocco. I walked with my friends next to the wild Atlantic Ocean in search of Paradise Beach. It was a long walk and our anticipation grew as we walked. After much scrambling over cliffs and calls of “nearly there” we arrived. Paradise was not a word which immediately sprung to mind. It was just at the end of the tourist season and the beach umbrellas were gently floating away towards the horizon, piles of rubbish resided near the water’s edge….we decided not to hang around. A donkey driven cart passed by, so we jumped on and headed back to Asilah.  The cart took us the “back way” where we witnessed piles of cardboard boxes and mountains of rubbish and, with horror, I realised people were actually living there. It was so shocking I kept my camera in its case, although my instinct was to capture this terrible scene so I could validate the reality of it later.


Had we not seen this other side of Asilah we would have left thinking it was a blue and white haven of tranquility and cleanliness. This story repeated itself all over Morocco. A four hour drive into the mountains? Great! Beautiful! No houses! No people! No cars….but wait….what’s that? A huge rubbish mountain dumped in the middle of nowhere amongst the real mountains of nature. My mantra throughout that trip became ” Next time I’m going to Sweden”


But, I started thinking…..all this stuff is laying around, why not pick it up and make things from it and do the Planet a favour at the same time. However, I’m not very good at making things and once I’d left Morocco I had no particular desire to rush back. Several years later, probably through a combination of boredom and inspiration (these things seem to go hand in hand) I picked up some plastic from the beach in Bembridge and reconnected to that desire to make something out of what I found laying around….which never happened because, as I said, I’m not a maker, I’m an illustrator. I remember being surprised though at the amount of plastic I found on what seemed, at least superficially, to be a clean beach. I washed the bits I’d found and lay them out in the sun to dry and to contemplate what it was I was never going g to be able to make, and that was enough to start the process.


I looked at the colours, the shapes. I wondered about the journey of the individual pieces,  I wondered about their history and I knew that I didn’t have to construct a three dimensional artwork, it was enough to just place these pieces on the ground. So I came to this environmental project very much via the route of art, which makes sense, because I’m an artist, not an environmentalist, but sometimes I feel that being an artist is a curse. It’s not a career path I would choose, but rather a career path which has chosen me, whether I like it or not, and sometimes I don’t like it at all! I often find art to be pointless and frustrating, I question my motives, my direction, my benefit to society as a whole. Using plastic to create my work makes art the by product, it reduces it’s importance whilst conversely elevating it’s importance, due to the nature of how the images come about.


The amount of information available on how to improve the Planet can be overwhelming. Solutions are offered on one hand, whilst on the other, those very solutions often seem to have their own problems attached. It’s a never ending cycle of confusion and the magnitude of what we’re facing is sometimes too much to take in. My personal way of dealing with this is to take things down to the most basic level. There is rubbish on the beach. The beach is within walking distance. I have legs to walk there and hands to pick up the rubbish. The rubbish I’ve collected then won’t go back into the sea to affect marine life. Putting this another way, the Isle of Wight has a population of around 140, 000 and 57 miles of coastline. That equates to 2,456 people per mile of coast. Are 2,456 people not capable of cleaning one mile of coastline? I think they are….and all they have to do is walk to the beach and Pick Up The Pieces!

Posted: May 21st, 2019
Categories: Holly Maslen News
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