Cardboard Carbon Neutral
“Reuse” comes before “recycle” in the waste pyramid,
and few people are as good at reusing as sculptor
Chris Gilmour. His work, inspired by “a love of stuff,”
takes cardboard headed for the recycling plant and
transforms it into a close look at the human obsession with objects as well as the psychology of waste.
His sculptures are the ultimate consumerist paradox: sturdy-looking cars, motorbikes, and scientific
equipment made out of a relatively fragile material.
They’re about as carbon neutral as they come.
Gilmour started out using cardboard for prototypes,
but soon realized its potential as a material: “It’s very
strong, you can make big things quickly, and it has a
nice conceptual content: the idea of the object which
was contained in the box disappearing and something
new being created from the box,” he explains.
Gilmour finds cardboard outside shops and
morphs the former packaging into meticulous,
life-sized re-creations of everyday items, whether
a classic icon like a Fiat 500 coupe, a stovetop
espresso machine, or a dentist’s chair. Some of his
works make use of the “patina” of color and text
that come from old packing labels and tape.
His works-in-progress are as spellbinding as
the final sculptures; each piece starts as sketches,
photographs, and measurements, and is then built
in jaw-dropping detail, cardboard skins sheathing
cardboard skeletons. Bikes have delicate spokes,
chains, and derailleurs; they’re held up by spindly
kickstands. A Lambretta scooter is enlivened by
color from packing labels, its wiring and engine
A Brit living in Udine, Italy, who also shows in New
York, Gilmour has a unique perspective on waste: “In
Italy, you tend to buy good quality and keep it for a
long time. I think in New York, you buy it, use it, throw
it away — I only need to think of the umbrellas they
sell on the street on rainy days. They last precisely
two hours, then break so you buy a new one. That
said, there’s plenty of waste in Italy, too, but that’s
good for me to pick up the materials.”
—Arwen O’Reilly Griffith
>> Gilmour’s Gallery: