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Are You Ready For Collage?
HISTORY OF COLLAGE
It wasn’t until the 20th century that the term collage was coined (more on that shortly.) However, Japanese calligraphers in the 12th century were pasting paper and cloth to their written poetry as backgrounds. This technique can be defined as collage. 15th and 16th century artisans in the Near East used intricate paper designs for their handmade books. In the Middle Ages, around the 13th and 14th centuries, artists painted their spiritual images and icons on panels with a variety of materials including gold leaf (thin gold leaf paper glued together), fabric, beads, scraps and hand colored paper painted on the panels. . The representatives made beautiful and intricate markers for their prayer books. All these art applications are combined with the collage technique.
In the early 19th century, with the advent of cameras and photography, families pasted photos into scrap books. Commercial screens and screens with images of popular tourist attractions and European landmarks were mass-produced and became very popular home decorations.
It wasn’t until the 20th century that Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque first glued the material to their paintings. Later it became “collage” a word that refers to a specific type of art. The term collage comes from the French “coller” which means “to fold or glue.” Collage soon became the term to describe a new and exciting artistic process.
The scene was set and Picasso and Braque were actors. The traditional, idealistic, classical theme of the Renaissance and Romantic Periods was in focus. The Impressionists helped lead this movement by choosing to paint local subjects—public gardens, cathedrals, and country lanes. Claude Monet, a famous Impressionist, painted many studies of landscapes under the ever-changing sunlight. Therefore, it was not surprising that artistic pioneers like Picasso and Braque used theater tickets and scraps of posters and newspapers in their paintings. Finally, the use of mass media materials has set contemporary open directions for modern art:
(1) Any material can be used to create a work of art
2) Any idea can be used for a work of art.
(3) Any technique can be used to create works of art.
Today, collage is an established art form that offers an imaginative, provocative and often humorous perspective using common, everyday objects as subject matter. Collage transforms the ordinary into the extraordinary. The skills needed to create a collage are both visual and physical. Physical skill involves combining things to create a composition. Visual acuity requires an eye and a brain that is sensitive to the meaning and content of objects.
HOW DO YOU MAKE A COLLAGE?
Collage begins by combining a variety of materials to produce a “visual vocabulary.” This must be something that attracts you. Look for your dress buttons, go to a yard sale, rummage through your old photos or trash. Trust your impressions of what you’ve seen. Remember that the materials used in collage can be anything: paper of any kind, scraps of fabric, leaves, plywood, plastic containers, grass and seeds, old equipment, scrap wood, leaves, etc. The possibilities are endless! So start collecting! Then, start exploring and experimenting with how your found objects can be put together to create a collage. Remember, the ultimate goal of a collage is to assemble a collection of materials to create a new visual form. What can your collage represent? It can talk about your life using photos and other materials that reflect your personal history. It can make a statement, for example, it can show how you feel about global warming and the environment. Or your college could take you somewhere you’ve always wanted to go: a paradise of tropical beauty or a utopian city. Your imagination will be activated by collecting materials and combining them. And then your thoughts and feelings will be revealed.
Collage is much more than just cutting and pasting things on a table. It takes skill to see beyond the obvious picture. For example, if you go through the pages of a magazine and cut out all the pictures of eyes, then arrange them in a different way, this will be a new way of looking at a familiar image in a different way. The image, which is repeated many times, gives way to the composition of the collage. Why? So you can find something else! When you look at the collection, the pattern will appear first, then, you will recognize the pictures of the eyes. Eye images became modules or design units in the collage composition.
Here is another example. How about a collection of photos and other materials you collected from your Las Vegas trip put together as a collage to represent the desert sun? You need to go beyond the virtual material of photos and memories and translate it into the idea of a wild sunset. You have to adjust your eyes to see the pictures other materials only like color and shape. When you can do that, you can shift the reality of your collected materials to another reality and create a sunset!
If you want to create a collage that evokes the feeling of, say, the 1950s. Using photos and images from the time would be an effective, journalistic way of defining that era. However, it might be even more effective to choose a 50’s style color combination by collecting lots of pink and black colored paper and then using the found paper to create a picture of a car with big fins or a poodle coat. Why? Because, the use of relevant images of the 1950s is common. Choosing a 1950s color scheme and creating a symbol or icon from that era is more creative, demanding and visually appealing.
Here is another example. You want to create a whole cityscape collage from the letters and logos of well-known products: Coca-Cola, Chevrolet, Palmolive and John Deere, etc. that you cut from magazines. This project will be interesting and effective. However, it would be more of a challenge and a more provocative interpretation, to show a forest scene using those commercial images. Mixing familiar, commercial themes into a pastoral image is much more provocative and interesting to the viewer. If one sees a lovely landscape, imagine the impact, only to discover upon closer inspection that the entire landscape is made of big company logos!
HEAD AND POWER OF COLLAGE
Taking collage skills a step further brings the magic of collage to another level: the mysterious interaction between objects to create a new concept of collage. For example, the famous artist, Joseph Cornell, created small boxes containing compositions of curiosities including old toys and toy parts, mirrors, seashells, stickers, pieces, posters, theater tickets and postcards. These boxes, which are now in many museum collections around the world, are small worlds, magical environments that often evoke a sense of mystery and sometimes horror in the viewer. This reaction is caused by collecting the items in the box. For example, a 19th century playing card is interesting as a subject, but with a stuffed horn and an old wristwatch, the meaning of the composite objects changes. What does this combination of objects entail? The bird, on its head, is filled with only a horn. But in comparison with other things, it may be seen as a joke. A wristwatch, just an old wristwatch, removed, can be seen as a symbol of time standing still in the context of other objects. And, playing cards, just antique playing cards on their own, in the context of combined objects, can symbolize fate.
Artist Robert Rauschenberg placed a stuffed goat with a can around its middle in one of his paintings. The combination was surprising, not only because of the strangeness of the rubber-clad goat, but because the painting became a platform, or a platform, for these curious objects. In collage, combining two or more objects or images can create a subconscious reaction. The viewer cannot fully understand why the collage is compelling, but nevertheless reacts strongly: either bewildered, curious, repulsive, fearful or awestruck.
Example: In the art of the famous artist Lucas Samaras, the artist uses a simple chair as his subject. But, he put the pin on it and completely covered it. A chair, by itself, basically represents peace and relaxation. Covered with pins, however, the chair becomes an anti-chair–an object that has been qualified, evoking a negative connotation. The viewer might think, this is not a chair I want to sit on, thank you.
FOR THE UNKNOWN
Ultimately, the power and magic of collage is most effective when there is a tension in meaning between the objects or images that make up the collage. Honing one’s collage skills takes one from the ordinary to the extraordinary. A beginner might plant pictures of cars in a certain way on a mat board. The collage will be no more than ad copy. However, developing skills in using collage can bring new insights. For example, pictures of cars stacked one on top of the other in multiple rows convey the image to another concept: all these lovely new vehicles might end up in a junkyard. This makes the image much more provocative to the viewer and carries with it a larger, more interesting statement.
The real power and magic of collage lies in learning the skills of collage, so no matter what one works with, the translation of images creates a strong and provocative composition.
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