Sustainability options are everywhere as shown by using a can as a vase

26 Apr 2024

Modern art is ‘rubbish’

Sharing Investec’s passion for sustainability, eco-artist and designer Sarah Turner has created a zebra-themed artwork for the Chelsea Flower Show made from used drinks cans.

 

“What will happen is that people will see the artwork from a distance, and they’ll think, ‘Oh, that’s pretty, a zebra made of flowers, how lovely’. And perhaps they’ll want to get closer to have a look at the detail. Only then will they realise that it’s made with cans.”

Eco-artist and designer Sarah Turner expects that her zebra-themed, wall-mounted installation – which was commissioned by Investec and inspired by the bank’s iconic zebra logo – will take ticketholders at the Chelsea Flower Show by surprise. “I expect people are going to spend quite a lot of time scanning the piece and trying to work out which brands of cans I’ve used where to make the different flowers,” she says.

Sarah Turner's wall mounted zebra-themed artwork using recycled drink cans
Sarah Turner, Eco-artist and designer

To take... rubbish and make art that looks natural and beautiful and organic, that’s enormously satisfying for me.

 

To create the piece – which is just over two metres high and about the same width – Turner collected waste drinks cans from local homes and businesses. Each piece is 3D and cut and folded to bring vibrant colours and textures to the eye-catching artwork. Even the frame is made with waste materials: old polystyrene.

“I feel like a lot of the time with my work, people are very surprised that you can transform household waste into something that looks beautiful. And that something man-made can look so natural,” Turner says. “Often recycling isn’t the most interesting or exciting part of your day. But if you’re able to show what you can do with recycled materials, that’s only going to help people have a more positive view.”

The commission for the Chelsea Flower Show was the realisation of a long-term career ambition for Turner, who spent three weeks designing the artwork and then a month making it. “I wanted it to be as eco-friendly as possible. It’s really important to me to recycle materials that would have potentially otherwise ended up in landfill sites. It’s more challenging than creating the same piece with virgin materials. Often people think of rubbish as dirty and disgusting – to take that rubbish and make art that looks natural and beautiful and organic, that’s enormously satisfying for me.”

Even before Turner graduated with a design degree in 2008, she was creating eco-pieces. “While I was studying, I was working part-time in a coffee shop. They used to throw away lots of plastic bottles and cans and I thought, ‘Alright, I’m going to collect them and make something from that waste’. I made various art installations. When I graduated, I exhibited that work and people were asking where they could buy it. That’s when I thought, ‘Wow, I should start my own artwork business’. I’ve been doing it ever since,” says Turner.

Sarah Turner
Sarah Turner, Eco-artist and designer

If you’re able to show what you can do with recycled materials, that’s only going to help people have a more positive view.

 

Previous commissions have included creating a life-size Dalek from rubbish for the BBC, an Olympic sculpture for Coca-Cola at the 2012 London Games, and a giant suitcase from single-use plastics for British Airways. She has exhibited her work at shows in London, Milan, Paris and Los Angeles. “I absolutely love what I do,” Turner says. “I always say that if I won the lottery, I would be back at work the very next day.”

Turner’s passion for sustainability is shared with Investec. “In my conversations with Investec, it’s been clear how they were also very keen for this artwork to be as sustainable as possible – that was also key for them,” she says.

Investec is delighted with Turner’s piece. “We are thrilled with designer and eco-artist Sarah Turner’s stunning depiction of our zebra icon, which helps us mark the occasion of the Chelsea Flower Show in an out of the ordinary way,” says Tim Burnell, Investec’s Head of UK and International Marketing. “Investec is committed to creating enduring worth for the communities in which we operate, and it was important to us that sustainable materials were used in this piece.”

With sustainability at the core of everything she does, Turner has designed the artwork – which is made up of nine pieces – so it can be easily reused. After the Chelsea Flower Show is over, it will be displayed at other events and then at Investec’s offices. If there isn’t a wall space large enough to display all nine pieces, they can be split up and installed on two or more walls. Recycled and reused and repurposed: this is worth hanging on to.

 

The Chelsea Flower Show takes place from 21-25 May 2024. See the Royal Horticultural Society website for information on tickets: https://www.rhs.org.uk/shows-events/rhs-chelsea-flower-show.