I think that collage puzzles many people. Random, surreal, fragmented, simplistic… Perhaps, as children, we’ve all cut out interesting images from magazines, books or comics and arranged them on a surface in a way that pleases the eye. In simple terms, this is exactly what many of the giants of 20th century art did and created some compelling and memorable works.
This show at Luxembourg & Dayan, a small gallery in Savile Row, central London, has gathered together a fascinating collection – indeed, a collage – of unusual artworks. I guess the joy of the collage is the element of surprise, that moment when you fuse one image or idea with another and create something entirely new. If you look at the Joan Miro (above), it’s called Metamorphose and was made in 1936. It’s a glorious mix of pencil, dribbled Indian ink, a few brushes of watercolour, bits of decorative sticker and a photo from a magazine of sunbathers. So how on earth does a piece like that get made? Miro must have had a studio filled with bits and pieces, obviously a ready supply of art materials and, most of all, a curious mind. There’s no reason WHY these random objects and images should fit together but it is the cleverness of the artist’s mind which creates a balance which is playful and somehow balanced. Not everyone could do this.
Think about that famous collage by Matisse – The Snail. It’s a fabulously random piece using pieces of painted paper arranged by the artist to great effect. People have separated those pieces and tried to rearrange them upon the canvas differently and nobody has came close to the the satisfying design Matisse made. He saw something no one else could.
So, collage works can sometimes look beguilingly simplistic but, rest assured, the artist will have tried a great many ideas before alighting on the one which is finally fixed in place. There’s also a much more scary and bold element to this form of art and that’s the stage when you draw or paint directly onto the piece, even though it might look quite finished. It feels dangerous with a high risk that the piece could be trashed. When it works, the artist can feel satisfied that they have managed a strange almost psychic PUSH into another visual dimension.
I’m on a mission to see and celebrate all the collages shows I can, particularly where paper is used. My own use of collage is more literal – I use fragments of paper like brush strokes rather than as strong compositional pieces – but maybe it’s time to give myself a bit of a PUSH! We’ll see.