Compostion : Compositions of Compost

Author(s): Stefan Szczelkun
ISBN13/Barcode: 9781870736176
A book of 17 photographs taken of my compost caddy whenever I found the contents interesting because of the colours or composition of elements or both. The photographs were taken with natural light from a skylight which gives a variation in the speed and aperture used. This information is recorded on the facing page with date of capture. The camera used was always a Sigma DP2 with Foveon sensor.
Finding beauty in chaos and decomposition appealed to my anarchist and anti-art sensibility. Representing still life or flora at the peak of its perfection reeks of petrified ideologies. Decomposition suggests that the formal relations we hold dear are subject to a continual state of change. Matter readied for breakdown by benign organisms reminds me that the world is ‘on our side’. What is discarded can contribute to tomorrows new growth.

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17 large Premium colour photographs, 216 x 280mm, Landscape Hardback.

Some Preview excerpts:

"Stefan Szczelkun is the Hieronymous Bosch of compost.  This garden of earthly delights brings together decay and vitality, colour and vegetal form, in a bravura exploration of the art of the accidental and unlooked at." Matthew Fuller Goldsmiths, London

“Rotten photographs of gorgeous matter, or the other way around: Stefan Szczelkun’s gorgeous photographs of rotten matter. As much mining art histories of still lives, dead nature, and vanitas, Szczelkun conspires with conceptual practices of seriality and the ordinary. It’s not that everything comes to an end, but that everything turns into something else.” Allan de Souza, UC Berkeley

“The austere paintings of Cotàn, his ‘bodegónes’ represent the everyday through arrangements of vegetables in  a shallow and precisely defined space. There is a similar light and a similar high drama in these photographs, a quiet constraint that then rebounds on reflection.” Sharon Kivland

"Compostion offers us a capricious index of peeling, skin, rind, stalk, mucilage, pod, pip, rhizome, petal and berry. Fastidious date-stamped images let the reader follow dietary patterns of consumption from virid spring debris through to muted autumnal; decompositions artfully recorded in situ."  Michael Hampton, author of Unshelfmarked: Reconceiving the Artists' Book

“It was Goethe who observed that the tree of theory is gray, but the tree of life springs ever green.  And so the color green has long been associated with and symbolic of life, of nature.  Yet we come to realize that growth is followed by decay, that life finishes in death, and that green becomes overtaken by gray.” Fred Whitehead, author and historian, Kansas City.

“These photographs prove there’s more enchantment in vegetable waste than in many a contrived art work. Beauty is in the bin of the beholder. Seek and you shall find.” Nik Gorecki, Housemans.

"An ecological visual statement after a lifetime of live art intervention, Stefan now composes with compost and the contents of his compost caddy - as compelling within hard covers as previous actions in the public realm."  Alastair Snow, artist and curator. 

"Stefan Szczelkun has captured the magic of the composting process – the extraordinary beauty of the kitchen and garden waste that becomes magically transformed into the black, crumbly stuff that catalyzes the life process all over again. These are images for our time, when valuing the process of recycling has never been more urgent." Lorraine Leeson, artist.

"I found Stefan's photos when preparing the composting education programme for the University of Warsaw Botanic Garden. In his photos it struck me not only how beautiful waste can be, but also how the methodic repetition brings out the richness and colour of our diets. I tell people about soils and composting everyday, and I often show Stefan's photos, to show how compost starts and to explain how it will feed us again."  Iza Reim, Warsaw.

“A series of 17 photographs that eat at the historic and hierarchical, class-bound taxonomy of still life in art. Focused on waste, rather than the representation of future feast, Szczelkun's memento-mori is propagated from his domestic compost. He reveals the capital of supermarkets messed with the self-grown of the allotment, a heap of forced convenience muddled with seasonality.” Jason E. Bowman, Senior Lecturer in Fine Art, University of Gothenburg.

"A society produces an inadvertent self-portrait through its dirt horizon, its demarcation of when and where things cross into waste—the more severe the division between purity and muck, value and waste, the more vicious. Here we are offered images of a more gentle passage, in fact, a celebration of the transition from ripeness to muck. Not much abjection here – these people are flaunting their non-waste in the full light of day before it becomes ground." Peter Conlin, Media Lecturer, Coventry University 

 “These beautiful images belie their reality. Instead of waste they appear as luminous and verdant as a still life composition.” Sarah Bodman, Artists Book Yearbook, UWE Bristol.


I would like to thank the people above for their considered and insightful words of which the above are excerpts. To read all of what they had to say see:



Additional Information

ISBN13/Barcode 9781870736176
ISBN10 1870736176
Author Stefan Szczelkun
Binding Paperback
Date Published 5 Nov 2018
Frequency No
Report Date N/A
Pages 40
Publisher Routine Art Co

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