ARITST Alison Milner and her photographer husband Steve Speller turned their collection of everyday objects into the exhibition “Inspirational Objects: Nature as a Designer” at the Pumphouse Gallery, Battersea Park.
Alison’s passion for collecting began aged seven with rabbit and hedgehog skeletons for a Brownie badge and led years later to the 100 objects project, a publishing deal and a touring exhibition of the book’s artwork.
She said: “I wanted the objects to all pass things on to each other like Chinese whispers” and foraged in India and a Barcelona hardware shop to complete the gaps in her collection of found, given, used, cultivated and “pinched” items. In her artwork story chart, a stopclock follows a flower with the same radial symmetry and a biscuit fired in an oven follows a brick fired in an oven.
The simple forms and materials have produced a retro feel which encourages nostalgia about the objects and how they are used. Eschewing modern materials, Alison explains: “The trouble with plastic is that you can make almost anything from it.
“Some of these other materials you have to construct something, or cast something, or fold something to the form.”
These work well in the juxtaposition of digital monochrome photos of nature and boxes of manmade object. Titles were reversed so Aeronautical Engineering shows spinning sycamore seeds and Perfect Skin shows a collection of deodorant bottles.
Alison explains: “The very first bottles were made from skins. They just emptied out an animal, tied its legs together and filled it with water at the neck.
“The other reason (for the title) is that there are so many bottles of potions to keep our skin perfect.”
Creation of the artwork was a painstaking process. Alison says: “Things like the sycamore seeds I had to collect hundreds and hundreds before we found the perfect specimens.”
To create Component Parts, artwork of a boa constrictor skeleton, Alison borrowed a damaged snake remains from the Brighton’s Booth Museum of Natural History, an early exhibition venue. She said that the skeleton was so damaged that “it was easier to stick the ribs back with Photoshop than glue them back on”.
The exhibition is at the Pumphouse Gallery, a light airy space to show the relationship between the photographed plants and Battersea Park outside.
The exhibition is part of the Wandsworth Arts Festival and is on from Wednesdays to Sundays 11am to 5pm until Sunday 16 June and is free entry. There is an arts and crafts room to entertain to children and help them interact with the exhibition.