Collage as an art form
Learn how to create a one-of-a-kind paper collage inspired by a professional photographer. The workshop Exploring the Art and Techniques of Collage will cover the basics of collage and demonstrate various techniques using paper, inks, and photographs. All supplies are to be brought. Let yourself create as you contemplate and let your contemplation express itself. Creative expression helps to move into pathways of new art forms. Our instructors will guide you in an exploration of painting and collage. Reciprocal relationships between photography and other art forms will be explored in the workshop. Beginners, as well as experienced photographers, are welcome to attend.
It is interesting fact that most studies of collage printed so far have a tendency to to treat the subject in art historical terms, not even in cultural terms, I don’t need to tell that is practically impossible to find a good scientific work about collage as an art form. Nowadays, the art of collage is very successful but its long-term attraction goes largely unexplained.
Art is associated almost equally with the two meanings of the word ‘‘culture’’, culture as a way of life or body of ideas and understanding, and culture as the some kind of metaphysical principle of society, including standards by which the best products of society are judged. Art in the first sense is associated with bodies of knowledge, skills, and of course representational practices that provide insights into the whole life world of a society.
Art in the second sense has been seen as the product of a particular phase of Euro-American history. In this sense, art is seen as detached from society as a whole and over determined by its role in the class structure of Western capitalist society. So, it is obvious, that the art is something revolutionary, something that connects people, and art in which you need only glue and the paper is the most significant visual-art form of the twentieth century.
Despite common belief, collage is nothing new; artists have been layering images and combining autonomous elements into their work since the introduction of paper, but I would like to agree with great Robert Motherwell that “Collage is the twentieth century’s greatest innovation.”
Collage gets its name from the French verb “coller,” which means “to glue” or “to stick”, and describes a wide range of art-making techniques that rely on re-appropriating works previously made images and found materials into new compositions. It is composed from pasted pieces of colored paper, newspaper, and very thin textile, considered at the time to be an very brave and risky combination of high and low culture.
Techniques of collage were first used at the time of the discovery of paper in China, around 200 BC. The use of collage, on the other hand, wasn’t used by many artists until the beginning of 10th century in Japan, when calligraphers prepared surfaces for their poetries by gluing tiny pieces of paper and fabric to create an interesting background for their work. The technique of collage also appeared in medieval Europe during the beginning of the 13th century. Gold leaf sheets started to be applied in Gothic churches and cathedrals about the 15th and 16th centuries. Jewels and other precious metals were applied to religious imageries, icons, and also, into the coats of arms. Later, in the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries, nuns made interesting in unique bookmarks clipped with cut and coloured papers, which they carried in their prayer books. Commonly, the materials used were selected for their symbolism, a practice that lasts in present-day collage.
Silhouettes made from small pieces of paper appeared in the Netherlands in the middle of seventeenth century. Also, it is interesting fact that craftsmen in prehistoric and primitive societies in many parts of the world used stones, shell, grass, fuzzes and butterfly wings as collage material.
Shamans in central parts of South America also used stones, shell, grass, fuzzes and some other autochthone materials to make masks used in sacred rituals. Of course, all of these materials appear from time to time in artists’ collages today.
During the nineteenth century collage established as a popular art, but at that time collage were more of a hobby than an art form. People pasted family photographs into arrangements and hung them on the walls, or in large photo frames. They also glued postage stamps into albums, and covered screens and covers of the lamps with magazine illustrations and some cheap art reproductions.
Also, in antique shops today it is very easy to find nineteenth-century stamp albums, photo albums, silhouettes and lamp covers made of various materials: paper, fabric, human or animal hair. Most of these materials were souvenirs and family valuables, not art objects.
Also, in 18th century we can find a sample of genius collage art can be found in the work of Mary Delany, they were called botanical collage and they were accurate enough to be used as botanical reference tools in the era before photography. There were a few more serious collage artists in the last years of the nineteenth century, pasting sophisticated and expensive paper patterns on backgrounds. Hans Christian Andersen created illustrations for his books using the collage techniques. Also, Carl Spitzweg made collages for a collection of recipes with patterns from woodcuts, which he colored by hand and pasted on veined papers.
This method was popularized by Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso in 1911 or 1912, when the two were fundamentally transforming the painting world with their dive into Cubism, it is very hard to find out which artist was the first to paste paper works into his painting, because they worked together and they weren’t careful about dating their pictures during that time.
Even though, some skeptics in the past considered collage a less significant form of art than sculpture, carving, weaving and painting, the role of collage as a tool of the avant-garde in the 20th century is very difficult to overlook.
Fruit Dish was the name of the Georges Braque first collage, it was made by pasting three shreds of wood-grain imitation wallpaper to a large piece of drawing paper on which he then put a moderately simplified Cubist still-life and some trompe-l’oeil letters. Cubist space had by this time become even lower, and the actual picture surface had to be recognized more vigorously than before if the illusion was to be detached from it.
Soon after their first paintings, Braque and Picasso started to use glued paper and cloth of different kinds, textures and designs, as well as a large number of trompe-l’oeil elements, and all that in the same piece. Superficial planes, half in and half out of illusioned depth were pushed still closer together, and the picture as a whole brought still closer to the physical surface.
Further devices are employed to accelerate the scuffling and shuttling between surface and depth. The area around one corner of a strip of pasted paper was shaded to make it look as though it were peeling away from the surface into real space, while something will be drawn or pasted over another corner to push it back into depth and make the covered form itself seem to poke out beyond the surface. Represented surfaces was shown as parallel with the picture plane and at the same time cutting through it, as if to create the assumption of an illusion of depth far greater than that really indicated. Symbolic illusion begins to give way to what could be more suitably called optical illusion.
This, exactly, was the way Picasso chose for a moment, before he went on to solve the terms of Synthetic Cubism by contrasts of bright color and bright color patterns, and by incisive silhouettes whose noticeability and placing called up an association at least, if not a representation, of three-dimensional space occupying every plane, whether real or imagined, in it.
Collage played an essential role in the evolution of Cubism, and Cubism had, unquestionably, a central role in the evolution of modern painting and sculpture. Anyhow, for the Cubists, collage became a central part of their campaign to explore painting’s illusion of three-dimensionality while openly acknowledging the smoothness of the canvas, a breakdown from hundreds of years of Western painting/sculpture tradition.
Surrealist artists have made extensive use of collage. Cubomania is a collage made by cutting an image into many pieces which are then reunited automatically or at random on new picture. Collages produced using a similar or maybe identical, method is called etrécissements, and this method was first explored by Marcel Mariën.
Another interesting technique is canvas collage, which is the application, usually with very strong glue, of independently painted oil painting squares to the surface of a painting’s main canvas. The most recognized artist for use of this technique is British painter John Walker in his paintings of the late 1970s.
But, it is very important to keep in mind that canvas collage was already an integral part of the mixed media works of famous American artists Conrad MarcaRelli and Jane Frank in the beginning of the 1960s. One of the most fascinating and controversial authors was Lee Krasner who frequently destroyed her own paintings by cutting them into very small pieces, her idea was to create new works of art by reconstructing the pieces into collages.
Artist, like in no other art form, instead of creating an illusion of reality, they created a new kind of reality, using textured and printed papers and simulated wood patterns on their drawings and paintings. Imagine the storm of disagreement that followed these experiments. The use of foreign and cheap materials in paintings annoyed critics, but that was just one more great reason for experimental artists to continue their work.
After the end of the First World War, The European avant-garde Dadists and some Surrealist authors continued in the collaging spirit of the pre-war Cubists, filling their work with found objects, grouping sculptures and images placed outside of their unique or standard contexts.
Some other artists, including Henri Matisse and Jean Arp, saw in collage a interesting potential for abstraction and minimalism in their work, using glued pieces of painted paper in their compositions. Matisse’s work with collage became particularly central to his art as he resisted to paint in classical way in his old age.
Of course, few year after the war, collage became a favorite medium for artists like Pop Art pioneer Richard Hamilton, whose iconic 1956 piece “Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?” used material cut out from magazines and commercials.
Like many other artists of the era, Hamilton combined images from commercial media and advertising into his work, disrupting long-held conventions about the subjects and materials allowed in serious art. In the United States, Robert Rauschenberg’s combine paintings imprecise the lines between mediums, with material, including stuffed bald eagle, jumping off the canvas in his pieces.
From Picasso and Braque’s Cubist experiments to Richard Hamilton’s pop art masterworks, collage has been a main tool of our most progressive artists for more than a hundred years. For many young artists in the twenty-first century, the spirit behind collage is eternally appealing, even though the shock-value of using collage as a fine art medium has largely passed.
In Greenberg’s history of Cubism, the creation of collage had marked an historical moment, the moment, as he believed, when the attractive surface of the work was at long last “transcended and transfigured,” dissolved into the purely subjective space of optical illusion. Obviously, that history was dependent upon the repression of the commoditized, mass-produced nature of numerous of the elements of Cubist collage. Unlike the collages themselves, Greenberg declined to admit even the potential presence of the plainly and commercially decorative inside the field of modern art. Our own attention to the specific materials of those collages now suggests a somewhat different history, one in which the invention of papier collé is, though, no less epochal.
It seems important here to insist that, even though optical illusion plays a major role in understanding of the collage, and so also in the negation of the wallpaper’s definite planarity, illusion per se does not appear to be the most important goal of the work. It is but one of the means employed to undo the certainties of the collage, to turn its reliably repetitive surface into a kind of arbitrary sign, which, because of that chance, lends itself to various incompatible readings, as a sort of multidimensional “witticism.”
The modernistic spirit of 20th century collage, the association of images and ideas, and the inquisitive traditional definitions of high and low art forms, re-appropriating material into new visual and theoretical contexts, remains a through-line in the work of the Brooklyn Collage Collective.
Also, very popular method in last 60 years is photomontage, collage made from photographs, or small parts of photographs, is popularly called photomontage. Photomontage is the process of making a complex photograph by cutting and joining a number of other photographs. The composite picture was from time to time photographed so that the final image is renewed back into a seamless photographic print. The same method is accomplished today using image-editing software. The technique is referred to by experts as compositing.
Richard Hamilton has then created numerous works in which he revised the composition and subject of the pop art collage, as well as a 1992 version featuring a female bodybuilder. Many artists have created plagiaristic works of Hamilton’s collage.
The 19th century tradition of physically joining multiple images into a composite and photographing the results prevailed in newspapers photography and offset lithography until the extensive use of digital image editing. Modern photo editors in magazines now create “paste-ups” digitally.
Creating a photomontage has, for the most part, become much more relaxed with the introduction of computer software such as Adobe Photoshop, Pixel image editor, and many other programs. These programs make the changes digitally, allowing much faster workflow and of course more detailed results.
These kinds of programs also alleviate mistakes by letting the artist to “undo” practically every error. Nevertheless, some new age artists are pushing the limits of digital image editing to create very time-intensive works that joining the demands of the old-fashioned arts. The current trend is to create pictures that combine painting, theatre, illustration and graphics in a continuous photographic whole.
The world of collage is like an amusement park with something for everyone, from the dignified round of carousel, to wild ups and downs on a roller coaster. No other creative medium is so accessible to people of all ages and skill levels. College offers exciting visual effects and enormous expressive potential, collage is a constant metamorphosis. Collage techniques range from simple craft creations based on centuries old customs to innovative constructions made possible only by modern technology.
Because college is a relatively new medium, experimentation is the rule. This leads to many questions about conservation procedures. During the early years of collage, and especially in the middle of 20th century, little attention was paid to the quality of materials and compatibility of media. As a result, museum conservators have watched helplessly as major purchases have flaked and floated to the floor of the museum.
There are plenty of materials for collage, but it is crucial to research their archival ratings, and many materials list this info on the package. Museum-grade materials are proposed to last forever, pigments are lightfast, papers have neutral PH and of course they are alkaline-buffered, and so on. This is a tough order as permanence in art materials is difficult to achieve. Even if the materials are rated high for archival stability, other factors, such as lighting and temperature, can impact the longevity of your artwork. Artists’ methods, application, and display setting can all factor into the long-term constancy of the piece. The environment can also affect the longevity of paint and paintings. Acrylic paints don’t do well if on low temperatures, acrylic paint can become damaged from freezing and dehydrated acrylic will become fragile when frozen, and consequently susceptible to cracking.
Artist should always be concerned about permanence of their artwork. Consider light fastness and reaction of pigments to pollutants to be matters of great importance. It is important to ask museum conversations where and how to learn about archival techniques. But, in the other hand, no one can guarantee that collage will last for centuries, but artist can always take some precautions to keep it intact for a very long time. First of all is using of quality materials, papers need to be acid-free. Also, it is essential to have coat supports with acrylic gloss medium or gel, also it is very good idea to avoid fragile materials that cannot be coated (dried flowers, for example). Furthermore, every object must be cleaned with alcohol and dried before coating with medium. Acrylic paints and mediums will not adhere permanently to dirty or wet surfaces. The last step is to dry each layer of collage completely before adding succeeding layers.
Of course, some object may be too heavy for the modeling paste or mixture, interesting trick is to wrap a very thin wire around the object in some places, make a small hole in the support and push the wire through the hole and secure it on the back side.
The major problem with modern or digital collage is copyright. Plagiarism is the illegal use of copyrighted material. Artist who used small pieces of magazine illustrations, newspapers or even published photographs cannot be sued for plagiarism, and they don’t need to worry. But, the artist who enters collage competitions, or makes reproductions for his/her college exam, or just want to sell work to some gallery needs to seek professional help about copy rights.
The matter may revolve around how much of the picture is used, whether it is a focal point or used as a part of the background, and whether or not the artist is enjoying financial gain at the expense of the creator of the original material. Of course, if it is important to get permission when other artists’ materials are a major part of your work.