Peta Kruger is familiar with waste anxiety, that stress phenomenon that implicates all of us in the crisis of over-consumption and our growing landfill scourge. The jewel-coloured geometric needlepoint of Kruger’s latest textile works evokes this contemporary guilt: each glistening piece is created by stitching shredded soft plastics.
The plastic material originates from items Kruger didn’t want to place in landfill. She was “alarmed” when she found out that “the conscious act of using degradable alternatives is worse for the environment than the impact of plastic in landfill”, as they can produce harmful “tiny microparticles”. It took Kruger three years to figure out how to transform this garbage into workable material.
Since needlepoint is a labour-intensive artform, each dense piece took Kruger up to four months to stitch. Now she’s become a connoisseur of soft plastics. “Grocery bags from fruit and vegetable stores are quite soft and silky,” she explains, “plastic gift-wrapping is usually shiny and prickly, whereas thicker retail bags are slightly sticky to touch.”
Kruger’s sincere engagement with the monumental issue of plastic waste gives these supremely attractive, tactile works a strangely melancholy aura. In the process of creating with waste, the artist has developed a magpie-like instinct for rubbish, which has proven impossible to turn off. “My eyes have become so finely tuned at finding small scraps in parklands and my neighbourhood—and I cannot leave plastic behind once it has been identified,” Kruger says. “I now have a vast collection of soft plastic residing in my shed and this has inspired me to invent new techniques and processes that will consume plastic on a greater scale in my next project.” For this artist, the war on waste continues unabated.
This article was originally published in the November/December 2020 print edition of Art Guide Australia.