Maslen & Mehra consider their more recent work to be ‘micro’. By that, they mean they are honing in on very specific political and environmental dilemmas. This requires a completely different methodology to previous work in order to explore detailed narratives.
The sculptures in their current series have been based on ceramic plates researched in museums around the world. These include the Victoria & Albert and British Museums, London; Hastings Museum, UK; Mares Museum, Barcelona; the Metropolitan Museum, New York; the Archaeological Museum and the Turkish and Islamic Art Museum, Istanbul; the Asian Museum of Civilization in Singapore and the Museo Internazionale delle Ceramiche in Faenza, Italy.
Maslen & Mehra fashion the sculptures from humble materials: wire and papier-mâché, completed with a decoupage technique of small tiles of archival prints. The narrative of each original plate is altered to highlight a variety of ideas tied to three themes: Cash, Clash & Climate.
The Cash series draws attention to bank bailouts; Doughnut Economics; credit culture; housing bubbles; tampon tax; quantitative easing; war as big business; the commodification of food staples; and the almost religious status that money has reached in our times. The Clash series embodies social unrest from London to Athens; Article 475; the refugee crisis; Grenfell; Greece and the Eurozone; social media to organise protests; fracking; gun control vs gun rights; and the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Lastly, the Climate series highlights environmental topics such as global coral bleaching events; chronic pollution as a heavy cost for economic power in China; melting ice caps; the opposing views of climate change; El Niño; Natural Capital; and the legacy of radiation from Japan’s nuclear disaster in Fukushima. The artists have made bespoke stands for the sculptures and invited local street artists, Shuby and Delete, to add to their surfaces, responding to each theme. This exhibition at the Hastings Museum draws together pieces from the three collections for the first time, representing years of work.
The sculptures individually pose questions about political, social and economic structures but together they ask how they, in turn, relate to social unrest and environmental issues. Some themes may be familiar to the viewer such as the piece, Polarized, which confronts us with opposing slogans: ‘Global warming is a cruel hoax’ and ‘Climate can’t wait’. Others are less obvious, such as the piece Article 475 which encourages the viewer to look further if they don’t understand the reference.
The largest piece in the collection, Natural Capital, references a system by which natural assets (water, geology, biodiversity, soil, air) and ecosystem services (pollination by insects, recreation, natural flood defences etc.) are given a financial value. Could this alternate economic system be the key? Maslen & Mehra have created the framework Cash, Clash and Climate in order to ponder questions about the complexities of living today and they invite viewers to follow their train of thought.
1 September – 12 November 2017
Opening event: 14th September 2017
Hastings Museum & Art Gallery
Hastings TN34 1ET