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‘It is magical’: repurposed art growing in B.C. along with eco-consciousness

As environmental concerns permeate the arts community, artists embrace a freeing era of art-making
Woven artwork by Beverly Hancock. (Beverly Hancock)

Victoria artist Beverly Hancock used to paint a painting and be done. But now, she cuts it up. And then, she weaves it into something new.

Karen Guilbault gathers pine needles – sometimes she’ll even politely ask city removal not to rake over a spot. She then patiently bundles and weaves them into intricate baskets.

Award-winning fibre artist Martina Edmondson now makes whimsical creations out of nature foragings.

These women are all established artists riding the waves of a rising tide: the growing trend of repurposed art. Essentially, it’s using found or existing objects to create something entirely new.

“It’s a huge trend in the world, but the biggest trend is to use garbage and reuse things that we don’t think are beautiful,” Hancock said. “And to try to make something that no one’s ever seen before out of something you would usually throw out.”


In February, another ‘repurposed’ artist from Victoria, driftwood sculptor Tanya Bub, was at an international exposition of repurposed art in Qatar called the Tadweer Art Exhibition. The exhibit merged the worlds of art and environmental consciousness, stated to be a testament to Qatar’s commitment to sustainability.

For artists who approach art through this lens, the draw lies in reconnecting with the natural world while relinquishing control and embracing spontaneity.

“I start with something that I find really interesting,” Edmondson said of her diverse pieces, which include collage, sculpture and eco printing (using natural materials to dye paper with earthy tones and create imprints). “I might think, oh, maybe this looks a little bit like a face or this could be an eagle. And then my imagination takes a flight.”

She also does embroidery, but, “It’s not pretty embroidery. I guess I don’t do pretty very well. Or, I don’t find it pretty.”

Pretty isn’t the point when approaching art in this manner. “You’re making it for yourself. And I think that comes with age,” Edmondson said.

Hancock, an expressionist and figurative artist who finds it “exhilarating” to rip up and re-imagine her paintings into new works, agreed this is a new era of art-making for her. “It is really interesting to see how artists’ work changes as their situation in life changes.”


A growing eco-consciousness in the arts community

While repurposed art has always been around, all three artists said they’ve seen it growing in popularity, all part of a growing eco-consciousness.

“I think with the way climate change is going, there will be more and more emphasis on, what are we using? What are we doing to the environment?” Edmondson said.

“I’m not saying everybody’s there, but, you know, I have a big following online. It’s a very big topic,” Hancock said.

“Many, many artists would say, ‘There’s no paper towel in my studio. I’m using rags.’ So if you can’t do everything, you’re trying to do something, right? And I think every artist is sharing that information with each other.”

Guilbault primarily uses pine needles to create her baskets. But she also paints stones to feature in the centre of these baskets, and once she’s done painting, she wipes her palette so the paint doesn’t go down the drain.

“You see how we are all thinking about it,” Hancock said. “When I went to art school, what a squiggle of time ago, in the 1970s, nobody talked about that. There wasn’t a single person in the art world that had ever even discussed, what do we do with this paint? Is it bad for the world?”

Experience repurposed art

While the artists just wrapped up a group exhibit at Gage Gallery in March, Beverly Hancock will be exhibiting at Gage again April 2-14 with RAW: Unveiled Layers, which delves into the raw experiences that shape the human condition.

If you are interested in this type of artwork you can also check out art by Gerhard Bär, Martha Haversham, Michelle Reader, Wim Delvoye and Yuken Teruya.

But Hancock, Guilbault and Edmondson would probably also encourage you to try it out for yourself.

“It is magical. After you get going, you go, ‘I could have never thought of that’,” Hancock said.

READ MORE: Spring into art galleries in Victoria

Sam Duerksen

About the Author: Sam Duerksen

Since moving to Victoria from Winnipeg in 2020, I’ve worked in communications for non-profits and arts organizations.
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