Wednesday, September 2, 2009
And now for something a bit different
In late 1997, during a terrible painting block, I took up making collages as a way of looking at what I was doing through a somewhat different filter. I'm not in a painting block now because Amor Aeterna is very close to completion but I thought I would revisit the collage. There are a couple of different schools of collage that are incorporating Victorian imagery into their work. The current school is what I think of as the Somerset Studio school of collage which uses not only images but also text, small objects and may also extended to multiple movable panels etc.
An older school of collage is the kind where the image maker has a stack of Dover clip art books filled with wonderful Victorian images and from other sources they've saved of a similar type. Later practitioners of this school make use of computer scans to arrange their compositions etc while others still use photocopiers, scissors and Mod Podge (tm) to create their collages. I decided to be of the old Mod Podge school.
The first two of my collages are posted here. I've saved a lot of material over the years and started looking at it again recently. Instead of mounting my collages to a sheet of cold press watercolour paper as I did in 1997, I decided to mount them to canvas panels using the different sized panels allowed greater freedom of composition. This necessitated making enlargements of my backgrounds and then piecing them together onto the canvas panel. I cut out all of the elements I wish to place on the background and rather than just rough cut and slap them down, I cut out everything very carefully including negative spaces in say the crook of a figure's arm or some part where when cut out would reveal the background.
I also looked at the particular line quality of each element with a view towards matching it. I wanted the collage to have a visual logic to it so that each part would be believable as a whole. One of the developments of the modern photocopier is that you can print images in reverse if desired. In the closeup of the collage below, the lady in the middle ground has been reversed so that her shadowing matches the troubled gentleman in the foreground as well as the lighting of the ruins behind them. The composition is being treated exactly the same as though I were doing a paintings.
The use of colour is designed to stand out from the sepia toned collages I see so much of which is to say the collage is meant to be brand new rather than a weathered and aged object found in an attic somewhere. The colours also are tied to my normal painting palette but in the case of collage I use transparent glazes so as not to obscure the underlying original detail. My colours are described as jewel toned in my paintings, I wanted to maintain this quality in the collages.
I also want the collages to suggest their own stories in the viewer's mind. Fans of the writing of Wilkie Collins and J. Sheridan LeFanu and other Victorian writers of the mysterious and the fantastic will have no trouble conjuring up narratives in their minds. However, I found that viewers completely unfamiliar with the conventions of the Victorian novel easily came up with universal narrative to describe what they thought the collages were about. Steampunk is a fascination of mine and some of my 1997 era collages were definitely steampunk and some of the 2009 images will revisit some of that territory with a new eye. In the end, the themes of my paintings and my collages are not all that far apart if at all.
Your experience may vary.