The Trash Talks Back: Ian Stevenson Uses Street Art to Ridicule Throwaway Culture

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There is an artist in London who breathes life into the very streets he walks. With every corner he turns, he listens to the unheard, in every alley he passes, he speaks for those who are speechless. This artist is the voice of the discarded.

Trash, that is. London-based Ian Stevenson is a no-bullshit kind of artist who is influenced by his surroundings and everyday life, not petty design trends. “If there is no idea then there is no point,” Ian told me over email. “Colours, making marks and filling the image up with stuff does not make it an idea.” Ian will work with any medium that inspires him, including discarded items and trash he finds in the streets of London. In his ongoing project Rubbish Art, Ian creates storylines you’ve probably never noticed before in London’s streets.

In his work with rubbish, Ian communicates two main messages: you don’t need fancy materials to make art and, well, people throw away a lot of trash. He said:

Drawing on rubbish was a quick and cheap way to do an exhibition on the streets and all I needed to do was go out, find whatever was lying around, create the piece and take a photo. Using rubbish helps focus attention on these normally overlooked items, helping them to talk back, and highlight the ever increasing amount that society throws away.”

Lately Ian has taken to using his work to offer a larger commentary on urbanization and gentrification. He created a mural in East London, a neighborhood once known for its vibrant street art culture. “Many people travel to East London to view the street art,” Ian said, “so I did a large mural on the side of a building saying ‘Just Look At This’ to make people think exactly what they are looking at as the area has now changed to become quite calculated and corporate.”

Besides installing his work (however temporarily) in the streets, Ian has exhibited at such museums and galleries as Tate Modern, Haunch of Venison, and the Royal College of Art. Ian has exhibited in over 80 international shows including Conran Shop Japan, Melbourne Underground Australia, Paul Smith Gallery Japan and Musée d’Art Contemporain de Bordeaux France.

this is rubbish

Ian Stevenson oh dear where are my legs

Ian Stevenson art

Ian Stevenson shut that door

Ian Stevenson what did I do wrong

Ian Stevenson messy isn't it

Ian Stevenson just look at this

Ian Stevenson free at last

Ian Stevenson Do you like my hat

Ian Stevenson Could you help me

If you take to the streets of London one day, perhaps you’ll find one of Ian’s pieces smiling up at you from behind a trash bag.

For more of Ian’s work, visit his website, or check out his latest book, Now That’s What I Call Art.

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