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AP1 research: collage

Within my practice I am very interested in fragmented forms, especially those of found objects. Recently, I have been forming my own collection of throwaway paper objects, such as ripped up photos, old books and magazines and flyers. I have been considering these objects for their materiality - the ripped texture of paper, yellowed, marked, torn, folded, stained. The silvert slightly glossy cracked surface of old photographs. The types of CMYK printing for comic books, different don't types, colours, patterns and geometry.

When considering how to activate these pieces I choose to use collage as I was interested in layering and combining throwaway elements, drawing attention to their fragmented shape whilst playing with the connection of colour and space.

Collage describes both the technique and the resulting work of art in which pieces of paper, photographs, fabric and other ephemera are arranged and stuck down onto a supporting surface (Tate, 2022).

Origins of collage

From French word découpage - describes process of pasting cut outs onto a surface

Used as an Art technique in early 20th century.

It is useful to consider collage as not being constrained to a 2d format. It can also incorporate drawn or painted elements as well as 3d - could be interesting to consider how my sculptural practice could incorporate collage...

Collage allows the opening up of conscious, which is very direct…its also a way of looking at what you are consuming all the time – John Stezaker

Way of looking at collage as a sort of portal, a connection point- reveal something within the objects and images themselves but also in what the viewers brings to the piece and how their own experiences create different responses from the work.

Important collage artists:

Kurt Schwitters

Cottage, 1946, Paper Collage

  • Use of many different layers of materials, similar colour palette.

  • Combination of textures, aspects of written notes.

  • Inspiration from modernist ideas in Dada movement

  • Sense of sentimentality in collected materials

  • Explored the links between unconnected objects and ideas

  • Artist used throwaway objects such as pieces of paper and trash in collages (links to my own interest in found objects and unused documents)

Constructivism (art)

Schwitters work as well as my own connect to the ideas present within Constructivism. These was an art movement where artists had a view that art should 'directly reflect the modern industrial world' (Tate, 2022). This is apparent in the way Schwitters collected throwaway objects which directly references the world around him.

The material formation of the object is to be substituted for its aesthetic combination. The object is to be treated as a whole and thus will be of no discernible ‘style’ but simply a product of an industrial order like a car, an aeroplane and such like. Constructivism is a purely technical mastery and organisation of materials. (Tate, 2022)

John Stezaker

John Stezaker: Pair IV, 2007, Collage

  • Stezaker has a very distinctive style - verging on a very minimalist approach

  • Often only incorporates 2 different printed materials - create minimal contrast

  • Pieces appear quote cinematic - timely quality - use of black and white images and yellowed documents - evoke feeling of nostalgia

  • Level of melancholy to the faces of the characters

  • Many of the characters within his collages are taken from film stills - exploration of culture of cinema

  • Gives old images a new meaning and agency

“I'm using an archive to create another archive of my own,” he elaborates. “My ideal is to do very little to the images, maybe just one cut: the smallest change or the most minimal mutilation. What I do is destructive, but also an act of deliberate passivity” (O'Hagen, 2014).

It is very helpful to explore the different approaches of these collage artists to better understand how to approach my own - I feel that the more minimal approach is much more successful - creates a cleaner image - more easily accessible - clearer image and concept - more spatial - areas of blank to allow work to breath

My own work:

Upend 1, digital collage 2021

Within my own collage I was interested in the process of appropriation - taking images from some of the first ever captured on a camera. Interested in the materiality of old images - the sepia cracked surface - almost alien looking landscapes

I wanted to play with a single image and see how little I could intervene to create a collage

These were made digital - developing my skills of using Photoshop to cut and rotate different sections - disrupts the surface of the collage

I enjoyed the minimal approach of these collages - helped inform my interest in appropriation and use of found imagery - whether that being online or in person

Connection to appropriation

Connection to Dada movement - innovations such as readymade, photomontage, engagement with popular culture/mass media.

Connection to act of appropriation - works such as Duchamp's Fountain - appropriating a found object - connection between appropriation and the readymade/found object

More recent exploration of the cultural taboos within this art form in relation to modern copyright laws

Evans (2009, p. 13) describes appropriation as 'a new type of double-voiced art [...] a practical form of the ideological critique'. Appropriation in nature is very critical - critical of material and object and also critically of the perception of art - what can actually be considered art

It could be helpful moving forwards to consider my art in relation to processes of appropriation - understanding how found objects function and how they are considered within the context of the gallery.

Useful links and resources:


Evans, D., 2009. Appropriation. 2nd ed. London: Whitechapel Gallery.

O'Hagen, S., 2014. John Stezaker: 'cutting a photograph can feel like cutting through flesh'. The Guardian, [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 29 February 2022].

Tate. 2022. Collage. [online] Available at: <> [Accessed 20 April 2022].


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