Plastic drags spark shingle soiree for Suffolk artist Fran Crowe's installation at Orford Ness

By Culture24 Staff | 29 June 2010
A photo of a collection of recycled materials in multiple colours

(Above) Artist Fran Crowe has made a colourful, abstract installation from thousands of items found at Orford Ness

"At Orford I've found countless plastic cups and bottles," reports Fran Crowe. "Toys, bits of cars, shotgun cartridges, angling gear, toiletries, mobile phones – you name it, I've found it."

The Suffolk artist doesn't sound particularly surprised. In 2006, Crowe was enraged by a United Nations report counting 46,000 pieces of plastic litter per square mile of ocean across the world, killing more than a million seabirds and 100,000 marine animals and turtles in the process.

She decided to take action by picking up beach litter to highlight the damage wreaked on wildlife by plastics, but ended up on "a kind of contemporary archaeological dig" at Orford Ness, a nature reserve on the largest shingle split on Europe which requires a boat trip to get to.

A photo of waste plastic bottles and garbage dumped on a beach

A UN report suggested plastics killed more than a million seabirds in 2006

Her work has resulted in a new installation at the former military testing site, made of thousands of items strewn in the sea, rearranged into abstract patterns and group colours.

"I see it as almost a self-portrait of us and our society, because of where I find things and the fact it's all been disposed of so carelessly," she suggests. Helped by a team of volunteers, Crowe drenched materials from below the high tide mark on a stretch of coastline familiar to visitors.

"Our coastline is so beautiful, it's hard to imagine why people would want to spoil it. What we're collecting is only a tiny fragment of the total amount of rubbish washing up and the problem isn't just localised to Orford Ness, it's going on up and down our coastline," she says.

"I know my work may literally be a splash in the ocean, but I really hope lots of people will come and realise that they can do something to help improve the state of our oceans before it's too late."

Exhibition runs July 10-24 2010. Fran Crowe will discuss her work at Orford Ness on July 10, 12pm-3pm.

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