Please welcome suzymae as our newest guest writer for DeviantArt. Journalism is the latest turn in Suzy’s communications-dedicated existence, her resume revealing her to be a lifetime arts world gypsy only recently having alighted in Los Angeles where she is involved with not only transmedia artwork, video and collage but also the stand-up comedy scene. Please join me in welcoming suzymae to the DeviantArt family, the best home for artists displaying Suzy’s spirit of peripatetic creativity, thoughtful human observation and all-in life commitment to self-expression through art.
Collage, Alchemy of the Quotidian
It’s a simple art form, yet it provokes extreme reaction. One either loves it or hates it. Children understand it. What child has not cut out and glued together collages of family members or friends or favorite entertainer role models? Yet when an artist combines objects that evoke more subtle meditations, collage is often dismissed as the lazy man’s art form.
Where’s the technique? The hours? The “value.”
Indeed, collage is often assemblages of roadside detritus. But the power or melancholy of the image then created to be experienced uniquely by each of us can be a thing of wonder, magical. How to appraise this “value?” Quotation fails. Perhaps it’s the purity of this magical artist-viewer exchange that so confounds the assayers. Sometimes junk can be pure gold.
Transforming with Intent
Collage, as a fine art form, was consciously explored in the early 1900’s across Europe and the Americas, inspiring a new wave of contemporary commentary, as artists integrated physical objects from everyday life directly into their art, transforming pieces of mass media into imaginative, opinionated statements on society.
In its purest form, collage is alchemy: a power that transforms something in a mysterious or impressive way, merging components from multiple sources into an entirely new expression of emotion.
One need not be a technically skilled illustrator or photographer to assemble an effective collage—but to invoke a new reality out of existing components, a sense of storytelling and composition is crucial.
As each observer develops their own unique emotional perspective on the piece, attaching their personal history to the components within, viewing a collage becomes an act of alchemic creation in itself.
“Collage is the noble conquest of the irrational, the coupling of two realities, irreconcilable in appearance, upon a plane which apparently does not suit them.”
Collage derives its name from the French verb coller, to glue.
It’s a technical description, reducing the practice of collage to its most basic form: attaching things to a surface. Conceptually, collage is controlled serendipity, combining disparate pieces of imagery into one singular experience.
Materials are limited only by imagination: parking passes, fine Japanese papers, cigarette butts, doll arms, dollar bills, seashells, human hair. Anything on earth becomes a medium.
Collage through The Ages
Since the invention of the printing press, words and images have been re-appropriated to tell stories and process information.
— Commonplace Books
Information retained by a single person, such as quotes, recipes, poems and laws.
— Friendship Albums
Compendium of signatures and drawings, collected from a variety of individuals.
— Victorian Photocollage
Photographs and drawings cut, colored, & pasted to depict relationships & events
— Papiers Colles
Artworks incorporating mass media objects alongside traditional materials.
Digital compilations of moving & still images, text, and sound.
“In collage you can mix up new flavors and thoughts for people to find.”
“The outsider might see it as collage; I regard it as painting. The paint I use comes with ready-made pictures and ideas in it, and as it doesn't blend, painting with it is like playing a giant game of open-ended three-dimensional Tetris, wherein each piece retains its roots in the material while the growth is angled towards the topic it portrays.”
The first deliberate and innovative use of collage in fine art came from Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso in the spring of 1912.
Pushing the limits of dimension and illusion via Cubism, the two broke 2D barriers with a series of papiers collés. Picasso incorporated an Italian postage stamp in his painting “The Letter.”
Braque used a wallpaper wood grain to conjure café tables in Fruit Dish and Glass.
After these well-known artists initiated the use of everyday objects within traditional paintings, the technically simple concept of collage came to affect the trajectory of contemporary art over the following century.
“Regardless of the medium, whether it is in Eliot or Picasso or a TV thirty-second advertisement, I think collage is the twentieth century's greatest innovation.”
The process of collage is anarchic and constructive at once, a practice with infinite possibilities.
This freedom and power inspired progressive artists to push boundaries, while simultaneously legitimizing pop as culture. Cubists, Surrealists, and other visionaries took on collage as idea, creating assemblages, constructions, readymades, and cut-ups. Neo Dada, Pop Art, and Conceptual Art all sprung out of this radical transformation of what art could be and contain.
As a process to invoke new realities, collage allows any artist to explore immortal nostalgia: transforming what already exists into a desired reality. Inclusive and quick, open to personalization and multiple mediums, the lack of rules and infinite sources of material challenge all creative individuals to develop their own innovative approach to collage.
“It’s not where you take things from—it’s where you take them to.”
Questions for the Reader
- What if any difference is there between digital collage and photo manipulation? Should they be considered a separate art form from collage, just as collage is from assemblage?
- Is effective collage harder or easier to create than a traditionally illustrated image?
- What attitudes set collage artists apart from others? Why might they choose collage over other methods?
- When can a collage be perceived as a cop-out? Is there something less noble about using other’s visuals?
- As artists broke the 2D barrier by adding 3D components, how do we explore the fourth dimension with 3D materials? What’s the next conceptual step collage might inspire?
- Has collage become the standard of modern media consumption? How does the fractured multimedia landscape we all experience affect our relationship to collage as an art form?