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February 21, 2013
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The Enduring Enigma of Collage

Thu Feb 21, 2013, 8:15 PM

Collage is one of those art forms that immediately sets off heated debate about our most fundamental ideas and visceral feelings about the very essence of art itself.

Turn of the century troublemakers Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso began enhancing their paintings with glued on bits of cut out fabric and other materials, thus neatly blurring the line between the art categories of painting and sculpture. They shifted the emphasis or “meaning” of their painted images beyond an attempted interpretation of the painted “text” to thinking about the artists’ “process” – something wholly separate from the paintings themselves.

And with that a whole new Rubic’s Cube of basic questions about art was opened up:

Is an assemblage of “found” junk really art? Is the artist’s technique in “building” an artwork more important than the artist’s aesthetic skills? Should ideas and feelings evoked in experiencing art come from a “story” or narrative painted on a canvas or are ideas and emotions with perspectives tempered by glued on newspaper clips and photographs just as valid? Is this “sampling” just a form of plagiarism? Is it simply an artist’s shortcut to his vision or expression, and ultimately never really his own best “statement?”

untitled urban collageby gregoriousone

Windsweptby JessicaMDouglas

pionerby igorska

self portrait collageby fantomas1

The Castleby patbremer

Kissed By a Birdby LauraTringaliHolmes

ATC: LoVe BiRdby abstractjet

Outwardby patbremer

Restlessby babsdraws

Leave it to the truly great artists and creative thinkers to leave more questions in their wake than answers. That the creation and interpretation of any artwork is a mad kaleidoscopic endeavor shouldn’t bother us so much a century after Picasso’s transgressions especially in a time of string theory and serious consideration of parallel universes. In fact, any evening spent in front of your end point of choice easily illustrates the triumph of the collage “idea” – as commercial after commercial batters us with seemingly disassociated sounds and images that somehow come together to push a singular perspective: like and want this product... because it is part of a desirable but unobtainable lifestyle implicit in the commercial’s collage of images.

But what of collage as a purely aesthetic artform? It seems the surrealists immediately following Picasso embraced collage, especially because it so nicely served in the presentation of political and anti-war messages, with the grim reality of war in photographs juxtaposed with the artists’s painted pleas for peace. Collage has never really gone out of style, as it seems to be that idea with a little added something that artists, like Warhol in the sixties, rediscover over and over to reinvigorate their messages. One particularly popular school of “wood collage” has endured, in which the artist glues wood cuttings or panels to painted canvases, again creating a painting+sculpture effect. Some artists use natural found driftwood to enhance their paintings, igniting again the “but is it art?” question. By now most of that conversation has died down into a truce:

Any artist’s expression is art. And art is in the eye of the beholder. Period.

Queen Of Black Words Blindfoldedby ArianeJurquet

Bird 3 -- Diveby LauraTringaliHolmes

carmageddonby live-by-evil

sumo surfingby almcdermid

Traditional american familyby Drogul-le-Mogul

Crosswalk on Manhattanby rpintor

Dannyby patbremer

Collage seems to have won a place in our collective hearts as an artform that “anyone can do.” We start cutting and gluing pictures in Kindergarten to add to our crayon creations and many happy homes have photo collages of smiling famiy members hanging on their walls. Whatever comment the serious artists are making about “process” or political activists are making about world peace is now wrapped warmly in the same artistic space as our baby photo collections.

“Digital Art” is the latest artform in search of a theory by the academics. But its commercial application as CGI is transforming the look of the imaginary worlds in films and video games and no doubt doing much, for better or worse, to imprint those (usually dystopic) landscapes in our sub-consciences.

Personally I love collage as an artform.

You Obviously Lack Originalityby Chickenman74778

Perfect Strangerby wicked-vlad

Questions For the Reader

  1. Is collage even relevant as a technique in the face of digital tools that instantly paste content into almost every image we see?

  2. What is your first reaction to the “is ‘found’ art really art?” question?

  3. Does the experience of the “meaning,” or at least your perception of a painting, being changed to a new perspective by added materials engage your mind in a positive way, or make you feel like what’s the point? Does too much relativity kill your soul?

  4. How would you feel if some of the plates fell off your very expensive Julian Schnabel “painting?” Would you first wonder if re-gluing them made the work somehow altered or bogus?  Would you wonder first about insurance or resale value?

  5. Do you have personal collages of friends and family? Did the placement of individuals’ pictures within the collage have any particular significance?

Collage is one of those art forms that immediately sets off heated debate about our most fundamental ideas and visceral feelings about the very essence of art itself. Turn of the century troublemakers Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso began enhancing their paintings with glued on bits of cut out fabric and other materials, thus neatly blurring the line between the art categories of painting and sculpture. They shifted the emphasis or "meaning" of their painted images beyond an attempted interpretation of the painted "text" to thinking about the artists' "process" – something wholly separate from the paintings themselves.

Writers: $techgnotic
Designers: $marioluevanos
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francesca1223 Featured By Owner May 8, 2014
francesca1223 Featured By Owner May 8, 2014
<font><font>El collaes una manera divertida de hacer una pintura. Y la percepción de ella depende del espectador. Y si abré hecho un collage en mi vida fue en primaria , hasta unos dos años más en secundaria. </font></font>
alwaysAdventure Featured By Owner May 2, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
I personally love collages. But I do think that there is a difference between creating art and just slapping a few images onto some construction paper. The same goes for sketches, and digital art, and sculptures, and pictures. Art itself has a thought process and meaning behind it and to it; that is why it can be challenging or frustrating or bring immense satisfaction to the creator or viewer. Take that away, and you no longer have art.
oldjorba Featured By Owner Apr 30, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
In this era of politically correct recycling, just think of COLLAGE as a natural extension of the movement.
mooliemoo Featured By Owner Apr 27, 2014
Sashakeen - it has a term - Photoshopping
oldjorba Featured By Owner Apr 26, 2014  Hobbyist General Artist
It's nice to suddenly realize that what I call "fooling around on the puter" is called an art form. I got tired of looking at four white walls so it started with enlarging some of my travel pictures and hanging them on the walls. Then the fateful day came along when I used Photoshop Elements to put a moon into one of my pictures. 325 "COLLAGE" pictures later and I'm still doing it.
They make great Christmas calenders and when it comes to taking the family Christmas picture, well your limited to your own imagination. 
wee-jock Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2014
I have made many collages in my time and the advent of cut and paste has made it even easier to do. I don't expect people to like my collages (or montage's if you prefer) but I enjoy making them.
sashakeen Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2014  Professional General Artist
Dear Theorionmage and all... you may call it "photo-collage" but there is already a term for that and that is MONTAGE. Collage is usually assemblages of paper, cloth, etc worked out to form some sort of "other" image or design while a montage is usually juxtaposition of images and ranges from the paper assemblages of Max Ernst (& Co) all the way to include, according to Alfred Hitchcock,  Film (movies, TV and commercials). 

I have been wrestling with this for a long time since I believe that CGI or Computer Generated Images for this purpose and use is in great need of a new term. What we do in creating work with this new technology is neither collage or montage but something altogether new and different.
roseofthevalley Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2014  Student
1. Digital tools can make collage more seamless, can speed up a process, can give wider range of flat images, but less textural material unless you have a 3D printer and scanner.  If an artist wants to use digital tools it's their call.  It's neither a NOT art or a FALSE art.  It just is an art.  Every medium has it's weakness.  Some people just like to drag them into the light and mock them.  I don't think digital collage is "cheating" or "fraud".  That's disrespectful and plain rude.

Also digital tools are very good for making virtual mockups for your physical collage.  Or you can use digital tools to create sections of a more seamless work, and juxtapose it with the textural.  (Speaking of this, I want to try it.)

2. ART ought to create discussions and evoke a change in perception/thought process for the viewer.  On one level it is cognitive and other affective. Or you can think of these two as ends on a continuum.  I like to think that when the two intersect or blend, they are most effective.   But, any work can slide between the two ends of the continuum (The reason I chose this chart instead of a venn diagram).

Found art a la Duchamp's urinal, to me, is more cognitive.

As for collage?   I think collage although some times deemed a low art actually fall in the space where these two categories intersect or blend.  However, like other "medium" of visual art, there is a range within the itself.  The ones shown above do encompass that range.  Some of them appeal more on a cognitive level and others more on the affect.  But that depends on the viewer or "the eye of the beholder," which makes it impossible to displace the cognitive, even when it occupies a small space of the continuum.

3. I'm an v. art/english major/minor.  I think "added materials" is a misnomer.  there's already a bias in the term.   What you should say/write instead is "non-traditional" painting materials, traditional being (acrylic, oils and mediums).  I think "non-traditional materials" can emphasize meaning in paintings, that is, bring the weight of perception towards a more cognitive space on the continuum (see note 2).  But it can be affective as well.  It just depends again on the viewer.  As I mentioned before, any work can slide between the two ends of the continuum.

Does relativity kill your soul?  Hell no!  It creates all sorts of dialogue and discussion.  It feeds the art work, the viewer and the artist.

4. I can't agree that a "fixed" or "restored" work would become "bogus".  It can become a new work, or an interpretation of the old work:…
Admittedly it wasn't damaged, but an artist did intervene.

5. N/A.  I don't usually make collages from photos, but I do use mixed media aka painting, drawing in the same work.  Speaking of which I should try =)
Mabogunje Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2014  Hobbyist Writer
1. Collage is definitely a relevant technique. Digital tools are designed to make relevant thing faster and easier, so the fact that they are accomplishing this does not and should not make the art form irrelevant. In the same way that industrialization made hand-made goods more precious, I think the evolution of digital collages, has made hand-made collages that much more precious.

2. The question is not really about whether the art is "found" or not, but rather if the resulting piece strikes me as art. I think collage, like abstract art, is more susceptible to the "eye of the beholder" idea in respect to determining their value - and as such whether each work is valued as art or not is determined by how many people consider it art. For example, I would consider most of the work highlighted in this article art (but probably not my childhood collages).

3. I think answering this question is really the point of the art form. A great collage artwork will includes materials in a way that adds meaning. When the artwork fails to do that for me, I considered that garbage or poor art.

4. Resale value definitely. Like I said in #2, since the value of a collage is very relativistic, modifying the piece at all in my opinion reduces that value. One wouldn't just saturate the Mona Lisa because the colours were fading, so how can I just glue stuff back? Also, it is unlikely I would own an expensive collage for any reason besides it's market value.

5. I remember making a collage as a child (along with some paper mache), but have no recollection of what exactly I made... only that the process was a lot of fun :)
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