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  • Writer's pictureMarion Flanagan

Looking at Ideas Around Consumption of Goods

The Cookies and Coke exhibition held at The Old Biscuit Factory in London, UK in March 2019 invited artists to engage with theme of "Consumption". The painting I exhibited, Sweet Temptation, looks at the tension created as my desire to purchase consumer goods intersects with my strong commitment to be good to the planet.

Detail from Sweet Temptation by Marion Flanagan

In my work, I investigate the specific point in space where various interactions occur. Having looked at human behaviour in my past work, as well as the meeting of humans and machines, I'm now taking a closer look at where interactions occur between humans and nature.

According to the United Nations, 55% of people live in urban areas, and for the UK that number is 90%. Most people don’t have the opportunity to interact daily with the natural world, except in parks or leafy neighbourhoods. On the periphery of many urban centres, at a place where the constructed world ends and the natural world begins, we often see self-storage facilities.

Using Google Maps, I began my visual research by looking at self-storage facilities in North America and the United Kingdom, especially seeking out ones that are juxtaposed by rural land. Below are my drawings and small paintings on card.

For the Supernatural exhibition at Chelsea College of Art in April 2019, I exhibited this fabric and wood sculpture titled On the Edge. It depicts the pressure that humans place on nature using physical force. A plastic litter bin is included in the construction of the green object. The form of the large grey rectangle recalls the aerial views of the storage facilities.

On the Edge, 2019 by Marion Flanagan Approx. 180 cm x 120 cm x 120 cm

For the MA Show at Chelsea College of Art, I’m looking at human interactions with fossil fuels. Petroleum can be highly toxic, but is relatively safe while in the earth. Once extracted, it's activated, and can now find new ways of moving within our environment through oil spills, as a material in the manufacturing of chemicals and plastics, and in the air once burned.

Pollution from petroleum production doesn't only affect the natural environment; it also ends up in our bodies. The waste oil used in car brake fluid and gear boxes can leak onto the pavement and be washed into our drinking water and the soil used to produce our food. Urban dwellers breathe in the soot from car exhaust. Humans dig the oil out of the ground, and it enters the human body through the mouth, nose, and skin. (The sculptures shown below are works in progress).

More information on these pieces can be found in my previous post on Materials Research.


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