EXHIBITIONS / Earwig go]: Eco-artist Adrian Bannon roots around bins and flower-beds for inspiration. That's eco for economy, says Robin Dutt

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The Independent Culture
Artists have often realised that if they are to continue with their work, economy has to become a constant friend. Poverty can give birth to richness, as seen in such art movements an Arte Povera, a 1960s group which hailed unwanted objects as inspiration. No need for expensive paints and Parian marble when you can find your raw materials in a bin.

Adrian Bannon is the latest in a long line of artists who have consciously decided to use the simplest means to greatest effect. This includes such characters as Richard Long, Andy Goldsworthy (currently also showing in London) and Steve Dilworth.

Bannon takes nature as he finds it, using dandelion seeds, thistle leaves, burnt wood, hair, paper and found objects, and creates picture-objects within puritanically white and regular boxes to highlight the contrast. These boxes may well look more at home as part of a Swiss cosmetics stand in a department store but the contents are engaging and intriguing.

The 'nature movement' still seems to be run by a lot of bearded gentlemen and ladies in unbleached cotton smocks who passionately believe in saving the planet. But while Bannon may look like one of Sting's session musicians, with his corkscrew hair and bandana, he's not happy to be hippy. In fact, there is a strong, rapacious element to his character which comes out in his work. These are not always gentle, contemplative pieces. Often they are puzzles, conundrums, charms and paganesque riddles. As an artist-alchemist, Bannon takes the most unlikely materials and arrests our attention.

'It's a question of transformation,' he says. 'You can give me anything and I can make something out of it. All materials are valid, whether dust or diamonds.' A keen gardener, prodding about in the flower-bed is the same for Bannon as another artist buying master colours from Cowling and Wilcox.

An obsession of Bannon's is making 'Spirit Coats' - matinee-style babies' jackets created out of thistledown, leaves, clay and smashed perspex. The pagan influence is plain here - as indeed is the point he makes about the ceremonial nature of robes from Christ to rock stars. Coats and robes clearly also meant a lot to the late Marc Bolan, who wrote (under some influence):

'A coat of grapes is on my back again,

I ride upon my zebra.

Pterodactyl beak-hat on my brow,

The truth is like a stranger.'

Artists often work with friends and contributors and Bannon is no exception, having recently chosen to collaborate on a couple of works with an earwig, apparently because of its perfect design. Having smoked some wood, his 'Night Visitor' walked about making little tracks. The subsequent addition of water-bomb droplets gave the appearance of an unknown chunk of universe with never-to be-discovered stellar systems.

Bannon also uses all four elements - notably fire - to create other works, burning, for example, the pages of Time Out to achieve paper roses. Why Time Out? 'It's all down to the china clay content of the paper,' Bannon says. 'Vogue apparently is just as good.'

'Nature Studies', Tues-Sat to 30 Apr, England & Co, 14 Needham Rd, London W11 (071-221 0417)

(Photograph omitted)

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