I first came across Julie’s work in 2013 and was instantly taken with her upcycled insect sculptures. Not only are they wonderfully imaginative pieces but they are always beautifully presented. The attention to detail in each piece is outstanding and the research and planning that goes into each of them is clearly reflected in the final result.
The ingenious use of small fuses for legs and various other electrical components to form the body and antenna work incredibly well in capturing the essence of the insects she studies. This coupled with the iridescent and metallic natural finish of the components conspire to create a truly beautiful work of art.
We asked Julie about her artistic journey, artwork and thoughts on upcycling in art in general. This is what she had to say ….
How long have you been an artist?
All my life.
What first inspired you to use upcycled objects in your art?
Since going to university to study Contemporary Fine Art and learning about using ‘the found object’, the ‘ready made’ and the ‘altered ready made’ as art and wanting to find a way to bring the theoretical concepts involved into an art form which makes sense in the era in which we live and which relates to current environmental issues.
Did you attend college/university?
I attended University for three years full time studying Contemporary Fine Art BA ﴾Hons﴿ ….
Are you self taught?
….but I consider myself to be a ‘self taught’ artist. My own artwork, sculptural, painting, drawing etc, and the practical skills I have learnt have all been from my own experimentation and personal creative discoveries over many years. What I learnt from the BA course was how to conceptualize and contextualize my work and the work of others, how to write essays and how to appreciate or/and criticize art. University has opened my mind to a whole new and wide world of understanding and new levels of critical thinking. The learning of practical skills at university was very limited.
What do you create?
I am also a painter, photographer, print maker and creator of alternative dioramas and assemblages using found objects.
What methods do you use?
In all of my work I like to mix traditional techniques with new for example with my Computer Bugs I hand paint the wings in the style of the illustrations in old entomology reference books and then transform them with computer design programmes adding circuit board veins. When displaying the Bugs I incorporate ideas surrounding musiology and the Victorian diorama but with a contemporary and often, subversive twist. The methods I use are so numerous and are constantly changing as I discover new skills but as well as incorporating traditional making skills into my art practice, I experiment a lot within the making process which leads to many a ‘happy accident’. I tend to keep my ‘happy accidents’ a secret.
Which is your most popular creation?
At the present time my Computer Bugs are the most popular of all my artworks.
Can you tell us about the first up cycled piece you created?
I started out up cycling by transforming old and unwanted glass, creating art objects with transparent glass paint, imitation lead relief and old jewellery which I took to local craft fairs. The first up cycled art piece I created was a contemporary piece called ‘Chaffinch’ which was created from found glass, wire and lead. A tiny Victorian hand made bird was used, again, combining the old with the new. This was one of my first ‘subversive dioramas’ which was a comment on the man made and its effects on the natural world.
Do you have a favourite piece?
I always have favourites and it changes all the time as new work is created.
Are you working on any new lines?
Works in progress include several multi Bug sculptural assemblages. I am also working on my Alternative Computer Bug Mandalas. They are a direct response to Damien Hirst’s Insect mandalas.
Do you undertake commissions?
Yes, I’m working on a commission at the moment and I’m always happy to accept new commissions and collaborations.
Have you won any awards?
I have not won any major awards but I have won some small local art competitions including a best in show at a local art fair, a first prize in a local photography competition and I have been one of the winners of the local ‘Spice Island Art Trail’ for the last two years. Small beginnings but I hope as my art practice grows, to be in a position to
feel more confident about going wider a field…
Why do you think there has been an increase in the upcycling trend?
Our way of life poses many threats on many levels to the natural environment. People are becoming increasingly aware of the current trend of ‘planned obsolescence’ and capitalist greed. ‘Planned obsolescence: the absurd practice of designing products purposely to have a limited life span in order to maximize profits based on the false notion that infinite economic growth can be balanced by the finite resources of the Earth. This is especially so for the computer technology companies and it is this ‘planned obsolescence’ which inspires my own work, The Computer Bugs, which are a direct response to the huge amounts of e‐waste in the natural environment.
Which artists inspire you?
Many artists inspire me but often it is something about an artist that is a little controversial. My Computer Bugs, being from an imaginary future where they have evolved from out of the pollution left by the human race, have elements in them that echo, sometimes in the slightest way, ideas within the work of others. One such artist is
Cornelia Hesse‐Honnege who’s beautiful water colour illustration detail deformities in bugs found near nuclear power stations. Her work is often in opposition with the scientific orthodoxy. Damien Hirsts controversial Entomology series has provoked my Bug Mandalas ﴾works in progress﴿ an alternative version in which no creatures
are killed. The Victorian artist and biologist Ernst Haeckel’s Art Forms of Nature, 1899, the beautiful illustrations, a combination of art and science, the arrangements of creatures and the effects of the symmetry he used in his stunning lithographic plates have influenced my Multi Bug Sculptural Arrangements.
Do you have any advice/tips for aspiring artists?
Always look at other artists work and visit galleries and exhibitions. You never know what might inspire you even in the smallest and most indirect way. Try to find something that is unique only to your work. Don’t stop! … Never stop creating
Q. Where can your work be seen and purchased?
I have a FaceBook art page: Julie Alice Chappell Artist
A WordPress Blog: juliealicechappellart.wordpress.com
My work can be purchased from my Etsy Shop: DewLeaf
My work is permanently displayed for purchase in Island Pictures,
183 Eastney Rd, Portsmouth, PO4 8EA.
My email address is firstname.lastname@example.org