Calleja, Callender, Cass

Beginnings of a Collaborative Project

Robert Callender,  Plastic Beach  (re-created items of beach waste: in paper, card and various other materials) 2003 – 2008 | Photo: Angus Bremner | Courtesy of the Estate of Robert Callender

Robert Callender, Plastic Beach (re-created items of beach waste: in paper, card and various other materials) 2003 – 2008 | Photo: Angus Bremner | Courtesy of the Estate of Robert Callender

Gozitan artist Joseph Calleja and I are bound by an enthusiasm for working with found (gathered, collected) materials. We are also each drawn to the image of water (sea) in our artworks. We’ve maintained a close creative dialogue over the past decade – since sharing studios whilst studying at Edinburgh College of Art – coming together now to respond to the installation work Plastic Beach by artist Robert Callender (1932—2011).

We’re currently in the early stages of producing a set of artworks in response to Callender’s sculpted facsimiles: focussing, like the late artist, on the coastline and sea. Many of our works will present the coast as a casualty of environmental change. We’ve set ourselves the challenge of approaching the topic from unconventional angles – placing importance on the periphery – using the image of a changing land-sea divide as a symbol to present our study. Thus, we have positioned ourselves on a metaphorical coast, the ideal vantage point.

Robert Callender,  Coastal Collection  (re-created items: in paper, card and various other materials) 2003 – 2008 | Photo: Angus Bremner | Courtesy of the Estate of Robert Callender

Robert Callender, Coastal Collection (re-created items: in paper, card and various other materials) 2003 – 2008 | Photo: Angus Bremner | Courtesy of the Estate of Robert Callender

The coastline is one of the first victims of rising sea. We might think of sea-rise as an issue lapping at the feet of others’ – a far off, foreign concern. But this phenomenon will soon become local to us all. Oceanographer John Englander states ‘while many may think of the Maldives or Miami in terms of vulnerability, flooding will also eat away at the coast of Scotland. The stunning reality of rising sea level is that all coastal communities will be affected, both large cities and rural areas...’

Callender’s subjects are pieces of driftwood and various fragments, which come away from wrecked boats, and other material found on the high tide line. At first sight his sculptures look like ‘found objects’, and might almost be interpreted as deriving from Marcel Duchamp’s provocative relocation of various functional artefacts into the world of art. In fact they are incredibly plausible-looking, three dimentional facsimiles made from paper pulp, cardboard, and paint, pigmented and given a texture using peat, saw-dust, and wood ash. Callender has developed craft skills to such a degree that he produces near perfect copies, indistinguishable in the outer structure and surface from the originals. Hyper-realistic fabrications of sea debris, such as Callender’s, have an engrossing power, but they avoid becoming mystically romantic, despite the subject, because of their obsessive resemblance to the originals.
— Text extract by Andrew Patrizio for the publication A2B

Banner image: detail from Joseph Calleja’s new series Imcaqlaq. With thanks to An Talla Solais and Lateral Lab: our collaborators.