Collage – a means of drawing and expression that I have a love/hate relationship with … very little love and one hell of a lot of hate and I have no shame in admitting that! I have only enjoyed collage once in my previous module and have found it perplexing and infuriating as I try to contend with glue and papers whilst trying to create some form of image that at least is suggestive of which I am trying to convey … and rarely achieving a resolved piece of work that I am happy with.
The course material refers to the work of Surrealist artists and how the explored the unconscious mind through juxtaposing incongruous images. This technique of unexpected imagery being placed next to one can create inspiration and stimulation of ideas through unexpected connections.
I really love the work of Salvador Dali and in particular this of a lobster telephone which combines two very different objects to create a new image that is fun and yet slightly disturbing.
I also really also like the style of Paul Nash in which unexpected objects have been placed in the landscape to create a surrealist image that reflects Freud’s theories of how dreams can reveal the unconscious. In this image Paul Nash has stated the spheres in the mirrors are a reference to the soul whilst the hawk is reflective of the material work – the images chosen are symbolic and also placed in a landscape of the Dorset coast which was a favoured location of the artist.
Looking at the work of Salvador Dali and Paul Nash I can see how this juxtaposition of objects creates works that are very exciting and visually stimulating whilst giving rise to questions about the meaning in reference to the unconscious mind – I find this combination of imagery incredibly inspiring.
The course material makes reference to the work of Marcelo Monreal – I had not come across this digital artist before but find his combination of photographic portraits with vibrant flowers really interesting as he seeks to convey how identity is more than skin deep and more complex.
The first part of the exercise was to take around 6 images of myself before choosing the best one to enlarge to A3 – this was the best of a very bad bunch and I printed it by mistake in colour. However I was able to enlarge it to the required size and in black and white at my local library and I decided to take 3 copies – I wasn’t trusting myself that one would suffice and luckily I had looked ahead at the course material and did these copies over 2 weeks before personal factors meant I would be unable to do photocopies of the collages.
The second part of the exercise was using collage as a drawing method and much to my frustration I have mislaid a very large bag of different coloured/patterned and types of papers I have collected over a considerable period of time and so had to work with my smaller selection I keep on my shelves next to my desk. I do not have the range suggested in the course material however and feel this is both a disadvantage and advantage – the disadvantage is the smaller range but the suggested papers have given me ideas of what papers to keep looking for although I do have to bear in mind I live in a very small 1930’s ‘2 up/2 down’ property so storage is something I have to bear in mind. The advantage of my smaller collection (even with the larger missing bag) is I am having to be resourceful and really think about how I can use what I have in order to get the best creative result – not ideal but I have to work with what I have and even my smaller selection of papers has a good variation in terms of colour and pattern with which I feel I can work.
I referred to the course material and chose 4 images from my hand bag that have personal relevance – most of my items are not highly decorated in terms of colour, pattern or shape etc and are mainly very functional but I chose a hearing aid, my glasses case, a small mirror and also a body-spray bottle. After arranging on a piece of white paper I proceeded to do 7 collages – one each of the case, mirror and body-spray and 4 of the hearing aid as I started to explore exactly what it actually meant to me and tried to interpret those feelings. My glasses and my hearing aids are very much part of my identity – I have worn glasses for over 34 years now and although I was born partially deaf my hearing loss has only been identified about 5 or 6 years ago so my aids are relatively new to me but I am starting to embrace them as they are part of who I am in the same way my glasses are.
The image on the left shows my interpretation of the bottle, mirror and glasses case – I am relatively happy with the mirror and the case but the body-spray I did not feel was very successful in part due to the shape and also due to my selection of papers but it was also useful to do.
However the simplicity of the mirror and also the vibrancy of my glasses case I actually really enjoyed doing. I used a combination of torn or cut scraps of paper for the interpretations as I considered carefully which method was most appropriate and this also applied to the collages of my hearing aid.
With regards to my hearing aid it is very simple in terms of colour and pattern – a dark purple but I felt I could really use how I feel about it in terms of emotion. This image uses a selection of grey papers which I have cut in blocks with scissors to convey how I hear without my aids – a jumble of grey tones which overlap and almost confuse me in the same way the patterns of the papers confuse the eye and despite you being able to see the edges in areas they seem to blur and blend and this is very much how I hear without my aid particularly if I have background ‘white’ noise (hence some of the papers being purposefully chosen for their white background).
I decided to work on quite a large scale with all my images – I am someone who usually likes smaller scaled work but I worked instinctively and as per the course material instructions without drawing the objects first.
The next collage explored how I do hear with my hearing aids in – I can hear words more clearly although as I am only able to wear one at the moment not all words and sounds are clear and can be incomplete. I have primarily used a newspaper and also the pages from a magazine supplement with images of Christmas gifts – the gifts are in relation to the fact that my hearing aids were almost like a gift to me as I heard the world for the first time how others hear it when I first wore my aids …. I didn’t actually recognise my fiance’s voice on the telephone despite us being a couple of about 5 or so years at that time! I wanted to use the words to create what is a very personal interpretation of what these aids mean to me and feel despite the resulting shape also being reminiscent of a sewing machine I have done this – the sewing machine shape is also relevant considering this exercise is of course part of my textiles degree!
As I explored each interpretation of what is ultimately a plain coloured aid that is not very visible to other people I became more confident in the use of how collage can be used as a drawing method.
In this image I chose a variety of scrap book papers plus wallpaper to demonstrate how these simple objects can really make the world seem brighter in comparison to the grey tones of the first collage which are representative of my hearing without the aids – the world almost sparkles with sound which can be interpreted as colour and patterns which blend almost seamlessly whilst also keeping separate identities … each pattern and each colour can be seen separately in the same way as when I can wear both aids I can hear each word or letter or sound clearly. As I write it is dusk in the early evening and I can hear the sparkling sound of a blackbird – this sound could be interpreted as the glittery scraps of wallpaper and this is what I wanted to convey.
Finally I found two lots of wallpaper – one of large roses in elegant, muted tones and the other of pale cherry-blossoms and these for me summed up perfectly my emotions about my hearing aids when you take away the effects of clarified sounds. Cherry blossoms in Japanese culture are a sign of renewal or new beginnings and roses are flowers of great beauty and elegance and emotionally the combination is how I feel about a small pair of objects that are just 1 inch or so in size – when I first received them they were a new beginning as for the first time in my life I heard the world as I have never done so before and I realised how beautiful the sounds were and this combination of papers for me translates that emotion.
I do feel in some ways now that a wider selection of papers would have been beneficial but as said my much larger bag is missing for some reason at the moment – I am just hoping it has not been thrown out with the rubbish in error! However as said the smaller selection I have has forced to me really be creative and look at how I can use the papers to their best advantage and interpret my objects appropriately as I seek to convey my personal interpretations of each of them. Having done this initial set of collages I have found a new large bag and will start to increase my paper selection afresh taking note of the course material suggestions and with a guarantee the old bag will turn up at some point!
Due to a combination of personal factors I was unfortunately unable to go photocopy the collages, as I had done with the photograph of myself, so I simply made some new collages of the mirror, glasses case and hearing aid – I chose the cherry blossom/rose version for the latter as this was the most personal in terms of emotion. Once these were made I referred back to the work of Marcelo Monreal and also that of Charlotte Hillard, an OCA student, to look to create a self portrait that reveals something about me – the idea was to combine these collages with one of the A3 enlarged photographs of myself.
I read the course material instructions several times before attempting to start working on this new self portrait – the idea seemed simple but the reality was very frustrating! I had cut out the chosen collages which I had decided to keep to the same size as the originals and placed them on my photograph. At this point I was grateful that I had managed to enlarge my photograph and take 3 copies because this enabled me to cut out sections of my photograph and really play with the resulting images – I tried to relax into the task and just let the collage evolve as I tried to juxtapose the differing elements in various ways.
Due to the limitations posed by not being able to photograph my collages I decided to photograph my different versions as I worked – this enabled me to freely play without sticking anything down. I used two of the my A3 self portraits in one image overlaying them with each other and also the collages but felt this was almost two complex but also somehow reflective of how apparently I can be very complex in my personality – this image above I find a little disturbing as I feel it is starting to reveal a part of myself that is not entirely comfortable. The first image in which my eyes cannot be seen I feel is reflective of how I have often hidden from the world and with my chin being upside down it is indicative how I sometimes feel the world can be topsy turvy in nature – the remaining two images I feel go back to the fact that without my hearing aid I can often feel disorientated due to sounds becoming just white noise with little distinction if I am in a noisy area.
None of these first four images really worked in the way I wanted them to although I am happy I recorded the results.
I had kept one photocopy of my self portrait uncut and decided to simply try recreating part of the glasses case over one of my eyes whilst adding a much smaller version of my hearing aid over the other and also a small version of the mirror over my lips and chin. Strangely this is the collage I like the best – it is straightforward and honest and shows me at my brightest in terms of personality. By putting the mirror over my chin and mouth I am hiding the area I hate the most (my chin) plus ‘putting a sock in it’ by effectively sealing my lips – something I know my children would appreciate! I note I also intentionally hide my wonky nose which was broken in an accident as a child and by adding the floral surround to my glasses I turn what I feel is ugly into something pretty. I do like to watch the world and I do like to really see things and take great pleasure in small simple things and I feel the simplicity of the collage around my eyes and face reveals this hidden side of me. This collage was stuck down properly and is in my sketchbook.
The final collage I have done I am much happier with although I am unsure what it reveals about me but it was done very much subconsciously. I used one of the cut up copies combined with the large collages and I have stuck this down in my sketchbook.
Overall I spent a considerable time on this exercise and much to my surprise really did enjoy it – yes it may have tipped the love/hate balance finally as I can really understand how collage can be used as a really useful drawing technique and how I can use it in my work to develop ideas and explore creativity. I am not sure I will be looking to explore my identity again through collage as I am finding the results a little unnerving and a little too revealing in many ways – revealing a part of yourself is not always easy to do but if I did feel I worked with the subconscious as I let the collages create themselves and dictate the final results.
The final part of this exercise I almost forgot and involved combining embroidery with one of my self portrait photographs and by doing so added texture and content as instructed by the course material. I decided to portray myself with coloured hair as I have never been brave enough to have pink or blue hair but have always wanted to try! In addition I hid areas of myself that I do not like but also finally added some bright pink chain stitch detail to one side of my face – interestingly I put it on the wrong side to where I have a 4 inch surgery scar but this scar is my badge of survival and hence the bright fushia pink which was a favourite colour of my late Mum as well as myself. It was a strange feeling doing this self portrait but it was my favourite part of the exercise because maybe this version reveals the most about who I am as well as crossing the boundaries between two art forms.
Beautiful Decay. 2017. Marcelo Monreal’s Surreal Collages Replace Our Insides With Beautiful Blooms [online]. [Date Accessed: 14 March 2017]. Available from: http://beautifuldecay.com/2015/04/07/marcelo-monreals-surreal-collages-replace-insides-beautiful-blooms/
Melissa Zexter. 2016. Melissa Zexter [online]. [Date Accessed: 14 March 2017]. Available from: http://www.melissazexter.com/
Tate. (date unknown). Surrealism [online]. [Date Accessed: 14 March 2017]. Available from: http://www.tate.org.uk/learn/online-resources/glossary/s/surrealism
TextileArtist.org. 2016. Melissa Zexter interview: Embroidered photography [online]. [Date Accessed: 15 March 2017]. Available from: http://www.textileartist.org/melissa-zexter-interview-embroidered-photography/