Collage is a funny thing, you’re always appropriating someone else’s work. For me, I love cutting up and reworking high-end glossy magazines. It’s a way for me to destroy my past life in advertising to create something new and refreshing.
But I also think there’s a propensity to get a little lazy by slapping something together and calling it art. The Biennale of Sydney 2014 has classic examples of this, almost side by side, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia.
The Good is John Stezaker. He has an uncanny knack for combining images that become greater than the sum of their parts. There is something disturbing and unnatural about his collages, that leave you feeling slightly spooked, like you’ve seen yourself in a way you never have felt before, catching a dark glimpse of yourself in a mirror.
More than that, he’s not plonking stuff together for the sake of it. There’s a beautiful synergy between the images in the background and the postcards superimposed on them. Shadows mimic the shapes in the background, it’s careful, considered, painstaking work. Just look at how the eye socket is hinted at by the dark cave, below.
At the other end of the spectrum, the evil side of collage is what I consider sloppiness. Harsh perhaps, but it’s too easy to plonk some images together, reference Greco-Roman traditions and create art. I have never met Gerda Steiner or Jörg Lenzlinger and I’m sure they’re very accomplished, but their work leaves me cold.
I’d love to know what you think, which do you prefer? Which of the art works do you connect with more? Am I way off track and should celebrate all these artists?