We’re delighted to announce the recent appointment of Andy Hughes as our 2024 environmental artist commission. The commission will include the creation of a video artwork (Machinima) and research that aims to extend and create alternate perspectives around climate change and pollution.

Andy has exhibited in both solo and group national and international exhibitions, most recently at Gapado AiR and the International Jeju Biennale (South Korea). He has dedicated over three decades to visualising the intricacies of plastic waste, pollution, and discarded matter, earning global acclaim. His work seeks to move beyond the conventional narratives about plastic pollution on land and in aquatic environments. His ground-breaking book, titled Dominant Wave Theory, marked a significant milestone as one of the pioneering photographic monographs specifically focused on the subject of plastic pollution. It stands out as an early contribution to ‘raising awareness’ about the detrimental effects of plastic waste on the environment.

Andy first noticed the impact of marine plastic and other waste debris while sitting on a surfboard more than 30 years ago; it reminded him of the waste he grew up with in the Coalfield of Yorkshire. But rather than being fixed and terrestrial, it was floating and suspended in the sea.

Andy says:

‘My work aims to move beyond established visual tropes where messages of eco or plastic awareness lurk within. I aim to provoke heightened attentiveness and synesthetic modes of perception, challenging conventional ideas surrounding climate change and the broader environmental crisis. What we need is more than technocratic solutions to the ecological crises we face as a species.

Combining photographic assemblage, archival film, video gaming, and AI, this new machinima video artwork celebrates the idea that even seemingly inanimate materials, such as plastic, were once ‘alive’ and may still possess a life of their own. As they flow through our rivers and journey across the planet, eventually they make their way into our bodies and minds. The first ocean life forms were microscopic, so small they would be invisible to the naked eye. It is what we cannot see that perhaps requires our focused attention now. My project Sea/River Shimmer will connect the river Torridge and the estuary into real and virtual fluid watery worlds.

Image: Andy at Gapado AiR, South Korea, 2022