Creatively Speaking – Chris Gilmore

21 Sep

One Aston Martin, shaken not stirred…. minus 007 himself and Miss Money Penny.  Although I am sure if you asked Italian based, UK born cardboard sculptor Chris Gilmore nicely enough he may be able to sort you out with the characters to go with the car!

I am going to cheat a little today as I found a really great interview on Chris’s website and I thought I would share as it gives a great insight into his work…….

Your work ranges from objects from daily life, to small models of religious architecture,…. to a piano hanging from the ceiling in the last solo show and objects from pop culture… how do you choose the things you portray?

There has been a progression in the choice of objects portrayed, which go from smaller domestic items (like the moka or the typewriter)


…….to objects which are larger, and belong to a broader cultural context (the Fiat 500, the Lambretta).

Fiat 500

The reason for the choice of objects has always been pretty much the same- they call up memories and emotions connected to our experience of these (everyday) things. Since this is both a visual and conceptual work I choose objects for their visual appeal and cultural resonance, but I also usually choose objects which imply an action or interaction of some sort. The interaction of the viewer with the works seems to function as a kind of short circuit between an implied action and the impossibility of performing it: you want to open the car door, or turn the wheel on the bike, but of course you can’t. I think this immediacy is important to enter the work, to grab the viewer.

Detail of the Fiat 500

What relationship is there between the artwork and the type of packaging you use? In the earlier works you were using plain cardboard, but in the recent works you can see the graphics and printing on the boxes…

Earlier works were made with very clean cardboard because I was aiming at a hyper-realistic effect which showed the material “at its best”, or rather seemed to do something impossible with it, making a perfect representation- indeed, many people assumed that the works were real objects that had been painted or covered in paper. The works I am producing now are made from cardboard boxes which are still found on the street, but which show all the printing, tape, labels etc…


I like the idea of concentrating on the material in its “natural state” and playing with the idea of these beautiful objects represented with a material from the waste basket. I guess it’s about trying to be as honest as possible with the material- I don’t want it to get too clean, so you can’t see what it really is. I think it gives another dimension to the work to use scrap cardboard packaging which has been thrown away after the coveted objects it contained have been removed.

Which do you think is the most significant piece you have made and why?

A key piece is the wheelchair, as this marks the change from earlier works with human figures to the current work without.

I used the figures to tell a story about the object portrayed, but the more I worked on the objects the more I realised that the interaction between the object and the viewer was a powerful element- the viewer brings his own story to the object, and doesn’t need a kind of theatrical set to explain the situation.

People often have a very immediate reaction to my works- they try to open the car door, or type on the typewriter and I like the game of contrasts-real/not-real, functional/non-functional, heavy/light- and the sensation that causes. I think that the viewer projects himself into the work, and indeed the reaction to the wheelchair was different- it’s a slightly disquieting object and no one wanted to touch it.

How much do you feel you are influenced by packaging, which you also use in your artwork?

I do tend to notice packaging, it’s something I find fascinating. I guess on a daily basis I just buy the same stuff and don’t think about it too much, but I needed lots of different packets to make the small churches, so we bought a lot of things just because of the packaging. Buying one of every item in the supermarket was fun but it did leave us with a cupboard full of food we didn’t much like and couldn’t tell what it was because I’d taken the wrapping off it…

Which artists have influenced you, who has been an inspiration for you?

I really like other sculptors who seem to share my interest in materials. I get the impression that their ideas come from playing about with things. For example, artists I always love to see for their approach to materials are Anish Kapoor,

anish kapoor: monumenta 2011 – leviathan

 Andy Goldsworthy,

Sculpture by Andy Goldsworthy

Tom Friedman, and Bill Woodrow – Goldsworthy and Kapoor make sculptures with an incredible attention to the nature of the materials they use, and, although the appearance of the work is completely different, I think Friedman and Woodrow have a similar sensibility. It’s like the classical ideas of sculpture about the “soul” of the material, but instead of a block of marble it is being applied to leaves of washing machines…

You are from Great Britain, but you live in Italy: is your work seen differently in the two countries?

The first big piece I ever made was a cardboard cow, “to sell to farmers in order to replace the cattle destroyed by BSE, so that the fields don’t look empty”. This had a great impact and was covered in national newspapers, magazines and on the radio. Unfortunately the farmers took offence and I had to flee to Italy for safety: even now I can only go back in disguise… actually that’s a lie (the bit about the farmers), but I do work principally in Italy, mainland Europe and America and don’t often go to the UK. However, I think the public perception of the work is similar in different countries, the reaction to the objects is the same, even though the memories or cultural significance must be different. Hopefully this means these objects communicate to different nationalities and cultures, perhaps because packaging is a kind of common denominator.


Posted by on September 21, 2012 in Art, Italian Designers, Italy


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4 responses to “Creatively Speaking – Chris Gilmore

  1. marsellaj

    September 21, 2012 at 11:24 am

    Uhhh, everyday I think you can’t top the day before, but you manage. Love, love, love this blog!!

    • birdcagedesign

      September 21, 2012 at 11:29 am

      Oh thank you so much… that means a lot to me, I am so glad you enjoy it… there are sooo many talented people out there so they make my job easy 🙂

  2. 129twigandvine

    September 21, 2012 at 10:46 pm

    Thanks for posting this. I love to see ordinary materials turned extraordinary. Will share this on with friends and a few car enthusiasts in my life.

    • birdcagedesign

      September 22, 2012 at 8:32 am

      Thanks for stopping by. I am glad you enjoyed, I hope your friends enjoy too.:-)


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