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Meet the artist creating life-size sculptures of endangered animals from cardboard


Placing sustainability at the core of his artistic practice, Josh Gluckstein captures the raw emotions of endangered animals through his life-sized animal sculptures.

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Enter Josh Gluckstein’s home studio, and you’ll find yourself transported into an extraordinary cardboard forest, filled with wildlife.

Every corner teems with life, from statues of majestic lions roaming their kingdom to gentle giants like elephants, giraffes and orangutans. Don’t be surprised if you see a Galapagos tortoise walking around on the ground.

While most artists stick to traditional media, Gluckstein, a social media star, sees the beauty and potential in found and recycled materials. There is one material in particular that captured his heart: cardboard.

“Cardboard comes from all over, so it’s always made in slightly different ways,” he tells Euronews Culture. “It feels like rich material, but it’s so available – anyone can really get it and play with it.”

For him, recycled materials have endless possibilities: “I can use corrugated cardboard to represent the edges of an orangutan’s face or wrinkled paper to capture the depth and wisdom of elephant skin.”

Love animals and art

Since his childhood, Gluckstein has been passionate about two things: art and animals.

With his foundation in traditional portraiture from his art school studies, Josh’s artistic path took an unexpected turn when he began experimenting with recycled materials.

“I would see things and start imagining manipulating them and turning them into something else,” he told Euronews Culture. “I usually did that with animals.”

“I was walking past a chair that was disassembled on the floor and thinking, ‘Can the legs of this chair turn into an octopus?’ And I thought that was a real escape from the traditions of portraiture and having to capture something so perfect.”

After university, Gluckstein decided to travel for a year, a trip that would have a profound impact on his life and work. He spent “an amazing year traveling throughout Southeast Asia,” including a transformative four months in India, where he taught in a slum in Rajasthan.

“This is the country where I got most of my inspiration – the colours, the culture, the animals and the different cities,” he says.

After completing his travel collection, which included camel sculptures inspired by his time in India, he set off on another adventure, this time to South and Central America. He encountered turtles in the Galapagos Islands, snorkeled with hammerhead sharks, and volunteered in Costa Rica to help rehabilitate howler monkeys and sloths.

Despite the amazing experiences, there was always “a tinge of sadness” for Gluckstein. “We’ve destroyed a lot of these ecosystems, specifically you can see plastic waste almost anywhere in the world. I’ve been diving in really remote places and I still see Coke cans, cigarettes and bottles on the beaches. It made me realize how much damage we’ve done to our world.” “

How to make animal sculptures

Gluckstein’s approach to sculpture is methodical and intuitive. He often works on multiple sculptures at once, a technique that allows him to maintain momentum and freshness in his work.

“I’m often working on five or six sculptures at the same time,” he says. “The initial process is similar to the way a child makes an easel sculpture, cutting the cardboard together to create cross sections, to build a shape.”

As the sculptures near completion, Gluckstein focuses on the finer details, working with more flexible single-layer cardboard, paper, and magazine clippings.

“I always want people to have as emotional a connection with the animal as I do with it. So those little details, the intensity of the eyes, the placement of the different characteristics, is the thing that takes me the longest.”

Through his work, he has raised over £10,000 for various wildlife conservation charities and amassed over 200,000 followers on Instagram.

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Last year, he presented a solo show called “Trafficked” at the Wolf Gallery, focusing on the world’s most trafficked animals, including snow leopards, jaguars, pangolins and elephants. 10% of sales go to WWF UK, which seeks to help restore threatened habitats and species.

Gluckstein hopes to continue using his talent and platform to support these causes and raise awareness about the importance of protecting our planet’s biodiversity.

After all, if we don’t act collectively now, the only place we’ll be able to see these magnificent creatures may just be in a cardboard sculpture.

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