British artist Joe Rush is the savior of scraf

Picture of British artist Joe Rush in his workshop holding parts from an old drill bit.

Artist Joe Rush shows what he sees in the remains of an old drill bit.
picture: Owen Bellwood

When you see an old or rusting car body Tuned engine with no hope of repairWhat does your instinct tell you to do with it? Most ordinary people think it’s time to say goodbye. Send it to the great junk in the sky. But British artist Joe Rush sees something more in these devastating mechanical components.

Rush cuts his teeth on the sets of UK construction films. But having spent his life obsessed with anything to do with the engine, he quickly set out to find a new way to express his creativity. Now, he’s building huge sculptures, Create exhibition facilities He collaborates with musicians and filmmakers to create works from nothing but mechanical scrap.

From his studio in south London, Rush takes vintage car components, rusty tools and broken bike parts to give them a new lease of life. The crankshaft of the engine may become part of a decorative fireplace; Motorcycle fuel tank Can be repurposed as a giant ant steam sculpture.

Jalopnik had a chat with Rush in his studio Bermondsey. He described his creative process on a modern sculpture.

“One day, I was looking at this old motorcycle I had in the bedroom,” he said. “First of all, I thought I was going to make a man ride a motorcycle, like a robot. Then, I thought I could do something like a centaur where the motorcycle kind of turns into a man.”

Picture of a table covered with scrap.

One man’s trash is Joe Rush’s treasure.
picture: Owen Bellwood

Soon Rush was rummaging through the scrap heaps for shock absorbers to represent the muscles on his new beast’s body. He used a fuel tank for a trunk as he proceeded to make the “bike turn into a man”.

After building his first scrap-based sculpture, Rush used everything he learned to build sets movies like star Wars And the Brazil To inhale new energy in car parts and other machinery he found in the garbage heap.

“I used to raid hops in the movie studio,” he said. (“Skip” is British for rubbish container.) “Once we’re done with the set, they’d just throw everything in the skip and I’d throw everything back in and put it back in my studio.”

It’s a method that has stuck with it ever since. Over the years, Rush has continued to push the limits of what mechanical waste can be built. was previously Recreated the historic site of Stonehenge Using the military tools left after the fall of the Berlin Wall. He made a gigantic floating whale out of surplus aluminum.

Picture of the head of a small robot made of scrap.

Oh, that looks like a head.
picture: Owen Bellwood

Walking around his workshop, he showed me a model of his dog he currently makes out of motorcycle parts, as well as an enormous fossil-like beast made entirely of rust hand tools.

“I tend to find lots and lots of junk and might see something inside,” he says. “One day, I might lift it up and think, ‘You know, that looks like a head. “This applies to anything from drills and small switches to trains, tanks, and planes.”

Some of Rush’s greatest work has been shown in Glastonbury Festival of Contemporary Performing Arts. The annual event is the UK’s largest music festival. It’s kind of like a darker, older version of Coachella with more exotic British teachings.

Each year, 175,000 celebrants descend on a site associated with the legend of King Arthur. There, like Paul McCartney, Billie Eilish, Diana Ross, Pet Shop Boys, Blossoms and TLC will save the musicWhile circus performers, comedians, artists and craftspeople spend an entire week of festivities. It’s honestly my favorite place in the world.

Picture of a mechanical phoenix on top of the Pyramid Stage at Glastonbury Festival.

Sympathy for the metal.
picture: Matt Cardi (Getty Images)

Rush creates a new installation each year for the festival. This included traveling sculptures, stage designs, and even the giant fire-breathing phoenix that crowned the main stage when Rolling Stones released 2013.

“When we built the giant phoenix, I was going to put it out there and hope for the best. But my wife made us train for it, and I’m so glad we did. It was a great moment, and if it was going to fall apart, I would look like the biggest striker on the planet,” he says.

“That was a wonderful moment, so wonderful.”

At the festival, Rush also sponsors Synermageddon installation With director Julian Temple. This is a dream of a car enthusiast – the artist used a set of cars of different shapes and sizes to create a cinema in the style of science fiction.

“For that I have 60 cars and I don’t have to run them,” he explains. “Some of them are big old Cadillacs, Oldsmobiles, Chevys, Jaguar and Morris Minors. They are just all the interesting cars I could find on eBay. But since I wasn’t bothered trying to get them back, I was able to put tank tracks on one of the Cadillacs or tractor wheels. On this 2CV car.

Festival-goers can choose the outrageous car of their choice and sit back and enjoy a movie.

Photo of a group of people sitting in a modified car at the Synermageddon installation in Glastonbury.

They look like they’re having fun at Senermageddon.
picture: Olly Scarf / Agence France-Presse (Getty Images)

but if 2CV idea with tractor wheels Hippie jeeps give you, don’t worry. Rush is not just an artist bent on destroying iconic cars from automotive history. In fact, he explains that sometimes, when he goes looking for parts, he might come across a car in need of rescue.

“In the same buying assignments, I’d just end up buying myself like an Oldsmobile convertible or a Rocket 98—a nice thing,” he says.

“Cars like this, I just stay on the road. I always better vehicles. My car I drive around Glastonbury is an HJ60 Toyota – it’s an old, square, boxy Toyota. I rebuild them and love them mechanically well.”

Rush explains it He also reconstructed a cafe racer Motorcycle, a project he’s been diving into during the Covid-19 lockdowns, he has a collection of American muscle cars that demand his attention whenever he gets home.

Photo of a dog model made of motorcycle parts.

Good dog.
picture: Owen Bellwood

“I love the big, heavy, dangerous way that Americans work,” he says.

His collection includes a Chevrolet Express The van, which is his daily driver, as well as the V8 engine Chevrolet Silverado from 2001. Last year he also added an Airstream Land yacht to his supposedly huge garage.

He also recently rebuilt a 1971 Buick Riviera (the boat) and Oldsmobile that had been imported into the UK from California.

“What a beautiful machine,” he adds. “I love them.”

But whether it’s tearing a car to shreds to turn it into a sci-fi horse’s head, or temporarily repairing a bike to bring it back to life, Rush says he’s always appreciated the beauty in these things.

“The mechanical internals are very well made things,” he explains.

“These helical gears cut out differential gears, pistons, rods, cranks and bearings. They are just wonderful minerals. If you took the armature out of its function, you’d have this totally weird random shape. I love those little bits, and if you just polish them up, you get something very, very beautiful.”

Close-up of a rusted victory name badge.

Joe Rush’s work to repurpose scrap is a triumph.
picture: Owen Bellwood

To many, pressing a project car can seem like a form of fine art. Rush is careful to point out that in his experience at least, the two processes require two very different sets of skills.

“The bike is a machine and the machine is a very well-balanced mechanism. So you have to be very precise with it. While my sculptures, I can hit them together. Anything that ties them together really works.”