Flags have been used as art around the world for decades, but are rarely appreciated , or understood as such. Sometimes used for their bold and dramatic colours, or because they represent concepts such as history, religion, identity and politics , flags can often also be used to communicate our ties to nature as they react to wind and light, as with many modern installations.
What we maybe fail to remember is that wherever they are used or whatever the purpose someone has had to used their skills, their creativity and imagination to design them. So while not regarded as a work of art, in the broader sense, their design has required some artistic skills – so all flags are really “art”.
Able to provide colour, texture and movement, flags and textiles lend themselves perfectly to all manner artistic projects from wall hangings, to large public installations. Showcasing some of the artists I have met, have discovered and admired from afar, here are some of the ways in which flags have been used in contemporary works of art around the world.
American artist George Peters has worked with kites and flags since the 1970s. He specialises in aerial sculptures, installation sculptures, banner work and mobiles.
George is credited as influencing the design of modern feather banners, following his first exhibition of feather banners in 1982 at the Phoenix Contemporary Arts Centre. He also created numerous flag designs that he displayed in the 1970s and 1980s and which featured flags tied to bamboo poles. George has worked together with artist Melanie Walker at Airworks Studio in Boulder, Colorado since 1995 and the pair have collaborated to create a range of public art works and private commissions over the last twenty years.
Pieces created by the team at Airworks Studio have included large scale outdoor projects, together with those designed to be experienced indoors, and have been exhibited around the world. George was also a regular visitor to UK, in the early 1990’s specifically the Bristol Kite Festival, where is flag/kite creations both excited and entertained the watching crowd.
Klare is based in Bristol, well known to us at Skynasoars and her work is much admired. She designs beautiful handmade flags and bunting for her company along with involvement in community projects and designing event décor.
With a fine Art background, Klare has worked in creative direction and production for festivals, corporate and community events, since university. While curating these events she discovered how flags are an essential part of the landscape to create a festive atmosphere. It all started at The “Big Chill” festival 15 years ago when she was asked to create and dress a healing area. Entrance ways from willow, element installations from all sorts of found and upcycled items and of course the need for marquee dressing, discovering that flags are a quick, effective and environmentally friendly way of creating a festive atmosphere.
Producing decoration for a few events a year worked well with school and community art projects. They both went hand in hand. As the production company expanded she took the role as artistic director for larger events the need for more flags grew too!
Klare started a family 5 years ago and now focuses on The Event Flag Hire Company and family more but keeps her hand and heart in all the above still! She is passionate about making each flag, a unique work of art and to ensure all are hand crafted to an extremely high standard in the Bristol studio.
Andrew Kingsley Tubbs
Andrew came to our attention, some years ago as creator, with his then business partner Angus Watt, of the many flag installations seen at Glastonbury Festival. Angus continued, to concentrate on major events, while Andrew chose to offer his designs to the wider audience.
Rather than an having an art background, Andrew was a professional windsurfer, making both sail and boards, and his first experience of the beauty of big flag installations was at one of the Surfers Against Sewage balls which he helped organise back in the early 90s. This eventually led to rigging and installing literally thousands of flags at major festivals and events both across the U.K. and overseas. As most people, his business evolved and grew just because he loved doing it…
Rather than just at big festivals, Andrew wanted to make large installations of flags available to a much wider audience at smaller and more intimate events, weddings, parties and the smaller events and festivals. His view was that people always love the flags, especially when they can get in close amongst them, touching and hearing the sound the make, flapping in the breeze. His joy is watching guests enjoying the flags and very satisfying seeing the flags being appreciated so openly.
“I think it’s a combination of their sheer size, the range of colours working together, the fact that each one is different and the way they move and react in differing light and conditions. Every installation is new and unique, whether its five flags in a small urban garden or 100+ at a stately home. I just never get bored watching them, it’s very relaxing and almost hypnotic sometimes.” Andrew is currently working on a major installation in St Ives harbour. You can see more of his work at BigWaveFlags
Ali Pretty is a founding member and current artistic director of Kinetika an outdoor arts company founded in 1997. She has led large-scale projects all over the world, with many being part of sporting events including the London 2012 Olympics, the Olympic Cultural Festival in China in 2007, the Tour de France in 2014 and FIFA World Cup opening and closing ceremonies. The studio creates textiles of various sizes, including flags for waving, flags for site design, banners and site decoration.
For the Isle of Wight Walking Festival in May 2014, the New Carnival Company commissioned her to lead workshops designing and creating a number of flags. Nine large silk flags were prepared, along with 190 small flags, and school children then decorated them. We at Skynasoars know her, from the work, she and her company do at the annual festival to celebrate Isaac Newton on the local town of Grantham
Emmanuelle Moureaux is a Tokyo based French architect and designer who uses colour to create spaces both indoors and in outdoor public areas. One of her best known projects is the < series of installations.100 colours no.3′she created a suspended cloud of colours from 840 paper sheets in Shinjuku Central Park in Tokyo.
This vibrant pool of colour contrasted with the grey high-rise buildings that surround the area. All the textiles were hand dyed, and they swayed gently in the breeze to create a calming and striking scene.
Clary Salandy is a founder and artistic director of Mahogany , considered to be one of the the UK’s leading carnival arts companies. Originally from Trinidad, Clary relocated to the UK aged 16 and studied theatre design at St Martin’s in London. Her vibrant designs combine structure and motion and perfectly represent the dynamic appeal of carnival art. The work produced by Clary and the team at Mahogany includes large scale kinetic sculptures for public display and has been featured at events such as the 2012 London Olympics and Queen’s Golden Jubilee procession.
These are just some of the artists and installations that have made use of flags to create scenes of beauty and convey powerful messages. Whether through their colour or their significance, flags are used by artists for various purposes, and they will surely continue to be popular features of art installations.