The idiosyncratic artist and former drummer with the Brian Jonestown Massacre can’t help but create. Here he takes us step by step through making the most of your home… or fridge, using anything at hand.

Photography by Marius Hansen

I’m a maker, I like to use my hands and my head. I have to make stuff. I’ve always felt lucky that I see beauty everywhere, and realise that I’m a materialist – but not in the sense that I idolise expensive things. To me, objects of beauty are ones that are free or found, but it’s all still stuff. I feel compelled to make art but don’t know why; I only know that I love making it and don’t make a living doing it. As I get older, I get more driven! Ars longa, vita brevis. Collage appeals to me, combining disparate subjects and media. One thing about making art out of concrete is that unless someone really decides to destroy my art it will be around one way or another for a long time.

How to… build your own BBQ

I made my barbecue as an excuse to create a large sculpture; part folly, part cooking tool. I built the base of the structure out of breeze blocks and then the upper half out of brick with an arched opening and scraps of honed marble, granite and onyx that I’d collected. I made a roof out of discarded 1930s roof tiles and then decorated the whole thing using tile adhesive to glue miscellaneous scraps to the walls, and grouted the lot. I covered it in concrete casts of cooked chicken, hot dogs, peppers, corn, mushrooms, pork chops, apple cores, along with ancient objects discovered during my mudlarking expeditions by the Thames.

While finishing it up, I started to worry that at some point in the future, after I had moved out of this house, a new owner might not appreciate my artistic vision and demolish the barbecue. So inside the base, I have sealed in a curse! I took an old mannequin bust, covered it in red and black paint to make it look threatening and then wrote a 20-line poem on to parchment, which I stuck into the mouth of the mannequin. After performing a special ritual, I left some money, liquor and food with the mannequin and sealed it all inside the barbecue – so whoever destroys my artwork will find this nasty surprise after their evil handiwork is done.

How to… immortalise your food

Step 1

Mix up a ne casting plaster and pour the liquid over the food you have chosen to be immortalised (maybe take a bite out of it beforehand, too, if you’re peckish). Ensure that the wet plaster goes into every nook and cranny and let it dry for about an hour. When the plaster has set, remove the food from the newly formed mould.

Step 2

If any food is left over in the mould, wait until the plaster has completely cured (three to four days) and use a wet toothbrush to scrub away any bits. After this, seal the inside of the mould with three or four coats of shellac, and nally a thin coat of Vaseline to ensure that when you pour the concrete into the mould it doesn’t stick to the inside.

Step 3

Make up a concrete mix using silver sand, white cement and shingle. This concoction gives a very light appearance to the nished object; I tend to prefer this to grey cement, but that is OK to use as well. Pour your mixture into the plaster mould and after 24 hours of drying, gently chip away at the plaster to reveal your everlasting food.

How to… turn your trash into art

Concrete sculptures incorporating old iPhone, porcelain animals, and old whippet canisters from under his son’s bed

I start by making an irregularly shaped box mould using MDF (laminated, so that the concrete will release easily from the mould without sticking).

Attach shapes made out of expandable foam insulation to the inside of the mould, as well as various objects including mobile phones, porcelain knick-knacks or interesting pieces of mirror that will stay embedded in the concrete. The concrete is a white mixture – see the previous how-to on immortalising your food – which takes 24 hours to set, so I wait a day before unscrewing the box mould. Using a small chisel, pick out any leftover bits of expanding foam in the cast: they pop out easily! I like to include found objects in the pieces and have recently been inspired by all the whippet canisters lying around the streets of London. I was cleaning out my son’s room and found a huge bag of them and I thought I would use those. I drop them into a thicker, drier concrete mix with a spoon and leave lots of air pockets so that when I take the mould away the whippet canisters are exposed.

I paint the sculptures by dripping yacht varnish coloured with artist’s oils over them and wait for a day or two, when it is still tacky to apply some gold leaf. The varnish acts as a “size” or glue to hold the gold and give it a really nice, blingy sheen. Sometimes I lie the sculpture down on a board that has been doused in varnish and let it dry there before removing the board to create puddled shapes. I like to let the material lead me and find that it’s accidents that produce the most beautiful results so I try to do a lot of techniques where I don’t know what kind of outcomes I will have. One of the great things about the medium of concrete is that it is relatively cheap. This frees me up to experiment, because if I make a mistake (and I make many), it doesn’t cost much money. I have probably thrown away more sculptures than I have kept. If something isn’t working out, I just take a sledgehammer and smash it up, then see if there are any interesting shards left to work with.

“One thing about making art out of concrete is that unless someone really decides to destroy my art it will be around for a long time”

Collage on bathroom door

From above left: Doll-head bong; tampon dispenser {made with love for his wife}. Below: DVD and VHS collection; porn bongs

How to… make a porn bong

I’m a hoarder and had lots of old Razzles and Readers’ Wives that I no longer looked at but wanted to do something with. I remembered that when I was a teenager in the States, I used to go to this adult bookstore with a WC covered in an amazing wall collage of cut-outs from People magazine combined with photos of porn stars and genitalia. It was an endless array of cocks and pussies glued together with pictures of Sylvester Stallone, Dolly Parton, Liz Taylor etc. Oh what I would give to go back in time and see that now! We are living in an age of absurdities like Trump, Putin, Duterte, Brexit, Rees-Mogg etc. The only appropriate response to it all is absurdity, so fire up a porn bong.

1. Get an old jar and lid and clean them both; I like Colman’s Mustard jars for this. Drill two 10mm holes in the lid and insert a length of plastic tubing into one of them, so that the tube reaches almost to the bottom of the jar and sticks up about 20mm from the top of the lid – this is the tube that you will put the bowl on to. Place a tube only about 5mm into the other hole, allowing it to come out of the top of the lid about 150mm – this is the smoking tube.

2. To make the bowl, find a branch about 25mm in diameter. Plane tree is the ideal wood for this job. Cut a piece about 40-50mm long from this twig and, using a vice, drill a hole down through it to a depth of about 10mm. Then, using a 3mm drill bit, drill a hole in the bottom of the bowl. Afterwards, carve away enough wood from the bottom of the bowl so that it fits on to the rubber tube. Then put a piece of gauze into the bottom, to keep the burning cherry from getting sucked through.

3. Decorate the jar with pictures from porn mags; cocks, pussies, assholes and just generally pictures from any old magazine or book that you have lying around for collage purposes. I finish off by varnishing the whole thing with gloss floor varnish. Et voilà! Porn bong.

Visit the below links to see more of Mervine’s world:

Website

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Retouchers: Studio RM