Monday, December 04, 2006

How to Make Collages

[This post is excerpted from John Lynch's How to Make Collages (London: Thames and Hudson, 1961), pp. 68-71]

Fig. 51a

Fig. 51b

Fig. 51c

In figure 51a four simple white shapes have been torn from a sheet of heavy paper and dropped at random onto a sheet of gray cardboard. The shapes are not complicated or particularly interesting in themselves. Their relationship to one another in this accidental arrangement is dull. Why? Because the indispendable elements of tension and interaction are lacking.

In figure 51b a more interesting contrast has been created between the two left-hand pieces in relation to one another. The straight edge of the thinnest piece is in opposition to the jagged edge of the piece above it, and a certain amount of tension is felt in the resulting space between the two pieces.

In figure 51c the arrangement has been amplified. These four variations on a rectangle are aligned in such a way that the contrast has an abstract interest. Two opposing factors are involved--the shapes themselves and the spaces between them. They begin to suggest something--a cliff, perhaps. Their placement makes the gray cardboard part of the composition rather than a neutral background, which it was in figure 51a.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

What's so interesting about this model for me is that it makes me think of a probably important distinction between two different types of collage that up until this point we haven't really explictly made.

For on the one hand there is this type of collage, which is purely about choice and formal arrangement, (though interestingly Lynch does not at all consider here the role of choice: the bits of paper are considered "random" and the choice of the material apparently "unimportant"), and on the other hand, collage which includes the introduction of "original gestures" on the part of the artist: that is, the cubist painter or Rauschenberg painting over collaged surfaces with marks which are recognisably his or her own, marks which must have, I think, a different statute to that of the found and arranged material.

For it seems to me that these marks, though still governed by such rules of arrangement as Lynch outlines, are still to an extent different, and make the confrontation and interaction between more-found and less-found materials (in order not to say "found" and "original") infinitely more complex than these purely formal questions of arrangement imply.

For it is almost like the confrontation of two entirely divergent theories of art and artistic creation (inspiration and techne perhaps, or Plato and Aristotle), and it is this, I feel, over any formal devices, which leads to the often stunning complexity of collages' aesthetic statements.