Petroleum spirituality


Petroleum spirituality was an exhibition of artworks tackling basic ideas of painting and ecology.

The connections in these works relate to the chemical similarity between plastic waste and artists’ acrylic paint, and with the ecological insensitivity of many traditional painting media. The assemblages I called Painting-sculptures mimicked the structural format of painting, but were made using plastic waste, the skeletal steel remains of old innerspring mattresses, and wire. No glues or paints could be used to make these “paintings”. Imagery from the formations of the Mandelbrot set was appropriated and used to symbolise the relationship of humans with the natural world and the irony of the Modern and scientific generating the organic.

These works developed out of a desire to make artworks dealing with the impact of human activities on the wider environment while using ecologically responsible methods and materials.


A Modern Book of Plastics is a thirty-two page illuminated manuscript that represents a sacred book.

The text is taken from numerous sources which include technical texts on the manufacture of various plastics, information from plastics industry pamphlets praising plastics as ecologically friendly, toxicology studies on the effects of poisoning rodents with ingredients used in the manufacture of plastics, and at the end, information specifying the plastics used in the production of artists’ acrylic paint. The mundane and innocuous scientific and technical information is juxtaposed with page after page of experiments on rats and ends with art materials.

A version of the International Phonetic Alphabet (I.P.A.) was chosen as the script in order to make the book seem either older or futuristic. Certainly some of the letters used in the I.P.A. were also used in Old English and classic languages like Greek, but the I.P.A. also represents a scientific ideal, and so could also represent the language of a more rationalised technocultural future society where our present is now historic. Using the past tense throughout also re-inforced this shifting in time.

In A Modern Book of Plastics I began to blend the mediaeval with science and science fiction which I have explored further in subsequent work.

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