Strewn across the concrete foundation of Cockatoo Island’s Eastern Apron was a formation of strange and ruinous structures. They look as if they might always have been here; leftover relics from an imagined lost world. Ruins (2014) was a site-specific installation by Australian artist Joseph Griffiths that utilised the existing topography of Cockatoo Island.
Inverting ideas of creation and destruction, Ruins continues Griffiths’s interest in the process of building a sculptural response to a remote or existing environment. Constructed from readily available and reclaimed building materials, including concrete, masonry, stone and timber, the work demonstrates the physical influence of such materials on sculptural and architectural form. Design elements from Celtic and Sardinian Neolithic drystone buildings, to Aztec ruins and Cappadocian caves, are all alluded to.
In the laying of mortar and decorative architectural details is evidence of the artist’s hand; an indication of care and investment, of time spent. This emphasis on handwork has developed from Griffiths’s background in drawing, a process through which he immaculately documents creative approaches to everyday life, examining the relationship between mass-produced and handmade tools and materials. More recently, his practice has developed to include the creation of artefacts, improvised architectures and interventions in the natural environment, allowing him to physically realise his interest in cross-cultural craft practices, domestic structures and patterns of urban social organisation.
In 2012, Griffiths presented Shelters, his first major public multidisciplinary installation, as part of the Next Wave Festival in Melbourne. Shelters consisted of a series of dwellings including a raft home, caravan and lookout, scattered in and around Melbourne’s Docklands area. Built entirely from natural and reclaimed materials, the structures alluded to the history of the precinct, offering a contrast to the high-density housing and reclamation of architecture as an artistic union of form and function.
Griffiths graduated from the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne, in 2007 and has since undertaken residencies, mentorships and cultural exchange programs in France, Mauritius and North Africa. Recent solo exhibitions of his work include ‘Drawings and Artefacts’, Maëlle Galerie, Paris (2013); ‘Improvised Drawings and Architecture’, PAF Institute, St Herme Outre-Ramecourt (2011); and ‘New Works’, Blindside Artist Run Initiative, Melbourne (2010). His public art installation Shelters was included in the Next Wave Festival, Melbourne (2012).