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Artist uses metal from melted down weapons to create art auctioned to help the global fight against gun violence


By Alasdair Fraser

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Frank To and his work with humanium metal
Frank To and his work with humanium metal

A renowned Highland-based artist is aiming to prove “the pen is mightier than the sword” by auctioning works etched with metal from melted down guns.

Frank To, a resident art lecturer at Inverness College UHI, will donate all proceeds from the project to the global fight against gun violence.

Mr To is already the first artist to have used ‘humanium’ metal – an alloy brand made from illegal firearms seized in governmental weapons destruction programmes – to produce his thought-provoking pieces.

The Swedish development organisation IM, which pioneered Humanium, reinvests income from the metal into tackling poverty and exclusion in worldwide communities affected by gun violence.

It has teamed up with manufacturer A Good Company to make a limited edition batch of 500 Humanium pens.

While the pens normally write in ordinary ink, Mr To has been using the tips to etch, scratch and hone humanium metal powder in new artwork for the project.

The artist, who enjoys a growing following and clientèle internationally – including Star Trek actor Sir Patrick Stewart – explained: “I’ve been working with humanium metal for over a year and I knew the companies were in the production phase of the pen in late 2019.

“But because of Covid-19 the whole process was disrupted, but despite the chaos we managed to get the project pushed through.

“The collaboration between myself, A Good Company and IM is to actually use this pen to make artwork in combination with the humanium metal powder.

Frank To and his work with humanium metal
Frank To and his work with humanium metal

“I’ve worked to create a unique colour for the artwork with humanium powder, but I’m also going to be using the pen itself to make the etchings.

“The artwork will be auctioned and sold by IM’s regional development partners to raise funds for countries that have been affected by illegal gun violence and from where these melted down guns originally came. Many of the guns used are from South American and other developing countries like El Salvador and Guatemala.

“It means the money made from the art will be brought back into these countries to support people affected.

“Only 500 of these pens have been made at the moment because humanium metal is quite scarce in the sense production is limited to the guns that have been seized.

“Unfortunately, many governments around the world don’t see disarmament as a major priority, especially in these times.

“This is aimed at the British government as well, as they have recently resumed selling arms abroad to certain regimes, something I’m totally opposed to.”

Frank To and his work with humanium metal
Frank To and his work with humanium metal

The 38-year-old this year became the first Scottish artist to be inducted into all five UK royal academies in one year.

In a further boost to his burgeoning reputation, he has now been chosen as the only Scottish artist to be accepted to the Royal West of England Academy in Bristol. Some 3500 artists applied nationally and internationally and only 450 were selected. The work for the academy was a gunpowder charcoal bee on a UK Government letter to protest their lack of support for the arts during the pandemic.



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