In the time of post 'Dumb and Dumber' an image such as 'I went through my bin' has that throw away quality that suggests Stark just doesn't care and will just do something, anything to make some art. It might be inane but so what, life's like that.
Stark uses old fashioned carbon paper to trace off images that she is interested in and will range across a wide range of both high art and low art sources, often using quotes from literature in order to make her point, which appears to be the impossibility of finding true meaning in what we do and how we look for truths in the work of famous literary figures, but fail to find it.
There are a lot of collage artists around at the moment and in an age of the throwaway it is probably the medium of choice for artists that want to feel politically true to the zeitgeist of the day.
Alex Daw's work suggests the almost suffocating amount of stuff that is thrown away, his work is layered with collaged images, both people and environments becoming clogged up with piles of torn out possibilities.
Craig Atkinson's irreverent take on things pitches his scraps of collage against the last vestiges of spiritual meaning, his 'God' a captain Bird's Eye of fish fingers fame, cut out shouting in the void, lost in roughly painted yellow space. In another image tiny half moon snippets of faces suspiciously avoid direct eye contact with us, as if they know something we don't, all part of Atkinson's precarious world of jumbled bits and confused juxtapositions, tales of daft punk associations and irreverent pokes at the authority of art and the old grand narratives.
Christian Marclay has recently been making small collages from Japanese manga comics and then has them scanned and edited before applying them to large wood panels and getting them cut out and prepared for printing using both traditional wood carving and modern laser cutting techniques. Marclay's 'the Clock' is a classic example of how collage can be used in a video format and if you have not seen it there is a link at the bottom of this post.
Christian Marclay's Screams
Marclay has had a long interest in sound and how we represent it and in comic books he found the perfect material from which to make collages. Comics have developed a very sophisticated set of word images to deal with sound and if you want to explore this in more depth see Scott McCloud's 'Understanding Comics'.
From Scott McCloud's 'Understanding Comics'
Marclay's print is based on a transcription made from a collage, that is itself constructed from a variety of comic sources. The interesting issue here is that the collage material is taken back into a print making process that brings all the separate elements together into the same world. Print making and collage have a long intertwined history, so much of the material for collage coming from the rise of print as a production process, a process that is still with us even though we were told that computers would bring in a paperless society. The fact that commercial printing processes are now readily available to everyone and that it is so much easier to scan or make a photographic image of something, has paradoxically led to a further explosion of printed matter.
Alex Rose introduces an almost ritualistic approach to collage, often using aged papers, combined with cheap printing processes to give the effect of images arriving from another time. The combination of different printing processes and the re-photographing or scanning of collaged images and then re-editing in Photoshop, has allowed artists like Rose working in this area to develop a much wider set of sensibilities. College can now be combined with drawing or assemblage, be re-positioned back into the world and photographed again, becoming either part of an on-line culture or operating as collage has always done, as a low technological reminder of the poetry and Surreal potential of the everyday to become magical or simply beautiful.
A personal favourite of mine is Christiane Kowalewsky. She produces an endless stream of images and seems to singlehandedly want to ensure that the old magazines and books of this world are going to live on in her personal world of surreal encounters.
Someone who is concerned to bring back into collage its status as a medium of political and social critique is Tariq Alvi. Tariq Alvi’s work is an interesting combination of intense highly wrought surfaces that are a result of painstaking dissection of printed materials, such as cutting out hundreds of price tags or items of jewellery and the reassembling of these things in such a way that they are re-constructed as a challenge to our notions of both form and format. Again we find collage a useful tool with which to de-contextualise consumerism, and in Alvi’s case he will also at times include references to the sexually charged hidden drivers hidden behind our desire to consume.
Max Ernst, Kurt Schwitters and Hannah Höch it could be argued set out the three main directions that collage would take. Ernst demonstrated the Surreal potential of composite images, his 'La femme 100 têtes' collage novel set the standard for this type of work both in imagery and in production values. Ernst created his first collages in 1919, using old scientific manuals and illustrated catalogues to make irrational images that tapped into the world of dreams and the subconscious, as well as celebrating the possibilities engendered by an image's chance encounters.
Kurt Schwitters saw a different potential on collage, this was the creation of beauty from detritus. He used his formalist understanding of constructivism to create compositions that have all the sophistication of a Classical painting, however he uses the most banal materials, such as used bus tickets and torn envelopes and in doing so makes us aware of how all things in this world have the potential to be beautiful.
Hannah Höch added a political element into the way that collage was used. From a critique of the financiers and military elite during the depression, to complex discussions around gender and identity in relation to the role of ‘New Woman’ in Weimar Germany, she produced many biting and poignant collages.
This post is a reminder that collage is an important and powerful drawing tool and in no way is it a summary of what is a huge subject, one that I shall return to several times. Hopefully it will encourage readers to begin to explore the subject much further and to try out for themselves the potential of using collage to reflect upon the society in which we live.
Ades, D. (1986) Photomontage London: Thames & Hudson
Krohn, S (2013) The Age of Collage: Contemporary Collage in Modern Art Berlin: Die Gestalten Verlag
Busch, D. H. (2016) Age of Collage 2 Berlin: Die Gestalten Verlag
Brereton, R and Roberts, C (2014) Cut & Paste: 21st-Century Collage London: Laurence King
Collage: Part one
Collage part three
College: part four