For close to two decades, Chris Gilmour has been making fine art out of one of the most inauspicious materials in the world: cardboard. Born in Stockport, England in 1973, the artist has made northeastern Italy his home since 1997, where he crafts life-sized, realistic sculptures that are displayed in some of the finest art galleries in the world.
Many of Gilmour’s sculptures embody consumer products such as guitars, bicycles, circular saws, wheelchairs, sports cars, and much more. The recreation of these products from a recycled and easily disposable material like cardboard forces the viewer to reconsider the permanence and durability of the objects in their lives as well as their shopping choices.
As Gilmour put it, in an interview posted on his website, “There is a concentration on the physical making of the pieces which calls attention to objects that are often mass-produced, and the choice of objects themselves is tied to an exploration of social and commercial expectations. The work can be seen as a reflection on consumerism and materialism, and as a metaphor for transience and impermanence.”
Though much of Gilmour’s work examines contemporary consumer culture, many of his other sculptures deal with age-old subjects like knights, dragons, demons, and saints. Though these classical figures certainly do not make up the bulk of Gilmour’s impressive oeuvre, it would seem that the weight of both history and power animates his work. Though not directly apparent in his more consumer-focused sculptures, these pieces suggest that the products of the twentieth and early twenty-first century are never far removed from more traditional representations of good and evil. Also, because these iconic figures are constructed from cardboard, they become representative of the sacred and the secular becoming intimately tied to each other.
One of Gilmour’s latest projects titled, “You can build anything when you put your mind to it,” which was one of his most ambitious pieces, used corrugated “banker’s boxes” and glue to make forty-foot replicas of Paris, Berlin and London. According to Gilmour, the London cityscape, which included the River Thames, Big Ben, and St. Paul Cathedral, took him only two days to create. Though this particular project seemed to be one of Gilmour’s most playful works to date, it would appear that the present and the political are never too far from the artist’s mind.
Perhaps Gilmour said it best himself, “One of the reasons I am attracted by cardboard is that, although it can be an expensive material, people fail to notice it and just throw it away when buying an object, often slightly irritated at the thought of having to dispose of it. There is a widespread idea of having to leave our mark, of expressing our personality by buying this or that object that will best convey our originality. Almost as if consumer society has transformed even our personalities into something you can buy.”
*all pictures © 2018 Chris Gilmour
Check out this video of Gilmour and his crew creating a cardboard London, Berlin, and Paris: