As I mentioned, using imagery for collage can sometimes seem arbitrary, given that it is often just found, sometimes accidentally. Even when seeking imagery for the purpose of making collage, you’re still just digging through stacks of usable art or design, waiting for inspiration, waiting for visuals that stimulate you or those that have similarities or interesting contrasts. While I continue to work through the paradox of finding imagery, for purpose or for exploration, once you’ve collected imagery or are prepared to use imagery, how you choose to assemble it remains just as important as their appropriation.
Slicing, shredding, crumpling, buckling, folding, rotating, flipping, puncturing, shaving, subtracting, adding, combining, overlapping, weaving, fading into one another, tearing, burning, wrapping, tracing or masking. Color is a whole new ball game: desaturating, screening, darkening, intensifying, purifying, blurring, smudging, distorting. Combinations can be sparse or there can be many. They can juxtapose abruptly in composition, or find seamless continuity. There are a lot more ways to alter images obviously, and there are even more ways of executing each method. For instance, slicing can be done with scissors or a blade, it can be a clean cut or rough cut, it can be precise in a straight vector, or less perfect in its edge. Where the slice is made is just as important; cutting straight through an image is abrupt and can change the tone, but subtle staggering of slices can ease a new image into the composition already developing.
These are all skills experimented on in early years of development, often in early primary school with Elmer’s glue, construction paper and a pair of accident-proof scissors. The process of assembling is natural and human, it’s endless and intuitive. It involves more than cut and paste, it can involve marination, refinement and is just as powerful when it is more about disassembling.
While my thoughts saturate on this I ran for random images and threw them in front of me. Then I assembled them and this is where I landed.
I assembled these images digitally, and after some time I felt it was saying something, it was communicating, but it was also expressing. I did not have a real goal, there was no haiku to represent, there was no agenda to push, there was no expression other than a collision of found imagery. Even though the product is mildly attractive to me, it became so much more interesting when I recombined and mostly subtracted elements. Here are some iterations.
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I have one more thought that I want to put into words. While I was inclined to pick up pieces of imagery from whatever I had around me for assembling into artwork, I seized up before even beginning for a lack of what I felt was unusable content. I was in my office, and although it is a habitual, ordinary environment, it is also rather staid. I questioned myself “how does one make collage when surrounded with such boring content? Isn’t then the real art of collage just about how intriguing your found imagery is?” Today I realized, however, that the usable content around me in my office at the moment is no less expressive than vintage catalogues or fashion magazines (often the prime source for mining collage imagery), but that it expresses an environment, a moment, an air of something completely different from my preconceptions of collage material. Material for collage can be found anywhere, and just because it doesn’t give me the sensation of fashion, or exclusivity, or rarity, or even beauty, doesn’t mean it’s impossible to communicate or frame expression from it. It will most likely, in fact, express a feeling of the environment from which it was pulled: habitual, ordinary, but rather staid. This is found imagery assembled into collage that is less about the taste of its author and more of a snapshot of the world around its author.
The assembly of imagery is just as important as the imagery as content. The process in this piece (which I’ve titled “Staid”) somehow appears corrective, clerical, and sedate. It’s still expressive, it may even communicate something, emotional or representational, and nothing was really clipped out of a wallpaper sample or tabloid ad from 1965. The whole thing is buckled down with Scotch tape, and even in that method of adhering the materials together there’s an elated communication about the spirit of the collage. Assembling content is a jam, as sweet as sandwich stuffing or as clumsy as your rock band rehearsal. Hopefully, for my client’s sake, it’s more like that later.