Tim Noble and Sue Webster- Dirty White Trash

Dirty White trash was constructed in 1998 by Tim Noble and Sue Webster. The artwork contains six months’ worth of rubbish, two taxidermy seagulls and a light projector (Taylor, 2012). The artwork is depicting Noble and Webster “after a night of carousing, enjoying the last cigarette and glass of wine, oblivious to the chaotic decay their pleasure both creates and feeds upon” (Grey, 2012).

Noble and Webster met at Nottingham Polytechnic, while they were both receiving their degree of fine arts, in sculpture (Fabricus, 2011). They began collaborating together in 1996 and developed their signature work in 1997. Webster originally intended to become a painter, but one day she took a hallucinogenic pill at a music festival, and when everything came alive she made the decision to switch to sculpture, where she met Noble (Groves, 2011).Noble was born in Stroud in 1966 and studied at Cheltenham Art College from 1985-1986, Royal College of Art from 1992-1994 and Nottingham Trent university in 2009. Webster was born in Leicester in 1967 and studied at Leicester Polytechnic from 1985-1986, Nottingham Polytechnic from 1986-1989 and Nottingham Trent University in 2009. In 2008 the couple finally took the leap after 20 years together and got married, however recently the pair “came to the sobering realisation that they had to choose between their art and their relationship. ‘we said F*** our relationship, lets save art’” and they split up (Mace, 2013).

Despite Noble and Webster’s “mix[ed] strategies of modern sculpture and an aptitude of punk,” they are also known as great environmental graffiti artists (Grey, 2012). Their artwork Dirty White Trash (1998) is a great help to the environment because it recycles found rubbish, which would normally be thrown into dumps and landfills where the waste can pollute the soil, waterways and air surrounding the area and can have serious effects on animals that live in the area. This work has a relaxed atmosphere to it and I love this about it.

Webster and Noble have used such skilful techniques and unique creativeness in this artwork that “at first glance it’s tempting to look disbelievingly around the gallery for the ‘real’ object or person that is casting the shadow” (Paterson, 2012). Although the artwork is quite unique and interesting to look at, Noble and Webster had obviously gained the trademark of depicting themselves in their art, “every figurative piece is also unmistakably a self-portrait, detailing the distinct features of each artist in mostly macabre poses” (Paterson, 2012). When selecting the rubbish for the heap Noble and Webster purposely chose certain items that represent themselves such as sun glasses and rock band badges. By doing this they were trying to symbolise their personalities and emotions during the time that this artwork was made (Walters, 2011). The artwork is very human orientated by the fact that it depicts two humans and manmade waste. For me the artwork is about the time that the artists spent together while constructing the work. The seagulls at the bottom of the mound are very significant. They are proped up in their regular feeding position, which proposes they are eating rubbish. This is a realistic enviromental problem of 2013 which causes damage to thousands of animals every year. This cause is relevant to Noble and websters key concept.

When a person looks directly at the sculpture the viewer tends to look firstly at the shadows. Then as they realise it’s a projection of light onto the rubbish and they try and recognise features from the shadow in the rubbish and are astounded by this technique. It teases their brain and makes them more curious every moment they look at it. This fascinates me and allows me to enjoy the artwork in an individual way. The shadows appear as a positive shape, as the focus is on the shadow itself and not the light around the silhouettes (Nowata, 2008). The imagery of the two bodies leaning against each other creates a kind of symmetrical balance in the artwork. The onlooker’s eye then travels from the silhouettes being the focal point to the top of the rubbish heap. It then carries down the sides and right to the bottom where the taxidermy seagulls sit.

This artwork ultimately advantages the environment in a healthy way and even with Tim Noble and Sue Webster’s rebel attitude; the pair have managed to do their part to help save the planet. As the Director of the Los Angeles Museum of Contemporary Art Jeffery Deitch writes: “Dirty white trash(with gulls) is a confluence of beauty and filth.” That’s what I love about this sculpture so much; it’s the fact that at the same time it can be so conflicting yet so combined, so helpful towards the environment yet so focused on humans.


Fabricus, K. (2011, March 24). Tim Noble & Sue Webster. Retrieved February 11, 2013, from Enviromental Graffiti: http://www.enviromentalgraffiti.com/featured/incredible-shadow-art-created-from-junk/12265

Grey, S. (2012, May 07). Tim Noble and Sue Webster give a few extra turns of the screw. Retrieved February 18, 2013, from Weird Fiction View: http://weirdfictionview.com/2012/tim-noble-and-sue-webster-give-a-few-extra-turns-of-the-screw/

Groves, R. (2011, November 16). Light, Shadow, (Re)action: Tim Noble and Sue Webster Trash Art. Retrieved February 18, 2013, from Mutual Art: http://www.mutualart/openarticle/lights–shadow-re-Action–Tim-Noble-and/2A4A3EAA1FO49269

Mace, D. (2013, January 03). Power Couple Tim Noble and Sue Webster End their Marriage for Arts sake. Retrieved February 18, 2013, from Telegraph: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/culturenews/9776193/power-couple-Tim-Noble-and-Sue-Webster-end-their-marriage-for-arts-sake.html

Nowata, A. (2008, March 14). Dirty White Trash. Retrieved February 18, 2013, from ryosukekumaki: http://ryosukekumaki.wordpress.com/2008/03/14/dirty-white-trash-1998-Tim-Noble-and-Sue-Webster/

Paterson, D. (2012, April 25). Out Of the Garbage and into the Light. Retrieved February 18, 2013, from Thalo: http://www.Thalo.com/articles/view/315/out_of_the_garbage_and_into_the_light_shadow_art

Taylor, J. (2012, November 24). Noble and Webster. Retrieved February 12, 2013, from Blain Southern: http://www.blainsouthern.com/artists/tim-noble-and-sue-webster

Walters, J. (2011, January 09). Artist Biographies. Retrieved February 11, 2013, from Tim Noble and Sue Webster: http://www.timnobleandsuewebster.com/home.html


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s