Collagist, Nel Burke talks about her influences and the Instagram collage community

Collage in art history seems to start with Picasso and Braque, and flow through Surrealism, Schwitters and Dada: these are the established threads through time, the links which connect collagists through to the twenty-first century.  They are our history of cut and torn paper art, and our inspirations.  Tearing and cutting, fracturing, displacement and insertion are collage techniques, the surreal collisions memorably described by Andre Breton – “ the chance encounter of a sewing machine and an umbrella on an operating table”.  Removing an image from its surroundings and inserting it into another, skews its meanings and undercuts its stability.  There is a rich dialogue with photography; its languages and processes, history, news media and advertising.  

I use what is already in the world – what has already been manufactured, and rescue and re-use a tiny fraction of what would be destroyed. I realised recently, that (almost) everything I use, is a photograph, taken by someone, mediated through a camera lens, whether an image of people in the street, or a photo of a fifteenth century painting. Then, highly processed: exposed on film, treated with chemicals, printed on paper, itself processed from trees, saturated with ink, and mass printed for (usually) a very short life span (one day? several years?). I have the illustrated London News from 1865, and yesterdays METRO.  1973 National Geographic, old books with beautiful illustrations of obsolete technologies.  Fragments … which can speak to each other, create new meanings, new dialogues…new visual feasts for the eye.

Why do I love making analogue collage?  When it works, there is a surreal beauty, strangeness and awkwardness. The whole process is visible – the collisions of different kinds of papers, images, and textures, the rough cuts and mistakes.  Each work is unique, and expendable.  Ruined a piece of paper you felt precious about? Too bad. Not happy with what you’ve glued down? Rip it up and start again.

Instagram has introduced me to the work of a whole international of collage artists who post their work, support each other, swap materials, and collaborate on works.  Below are a few I follow, its not a ‘best of’, simply some artists who currently inspire me.  The names are their instagram names: many of them I don’t know their names as artists.

bitswelovevbcollagesgeofflitchfield mrs.bonesco tsimmes mixedmediamanifesto fancernancerbiblioexcavationsknightsclive rhedfawellmoonloops101irina.se_secarolreidwhitefred_freekusam.bedi

More about Nel Burke.

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