Exercise 1.3

Notes on artists cited in this section of the course notes:

Hannah Höch

John Heartfield

Peter Kennard

Lisa Barnard

The brief for this exercise asks us to make collages using readily available images – something quite daunting as making physical work is completely outside of my comfort zone. Anyway, I tried to embrace this and bought all of the requisite tools – scalpel set, cutting board, glue, card to stick everything down on. I then bought a selection of newspapers (broadsheets and red tops) from which to take the raw materials for the exercise. Two news stories were widely reported – the birth of the new new royal baby Prince Archie, this story also had the controversy surrounding Danny Baker and a Twitter comment he had made that had been deemed racist. The other story widely reported was the ongoing Brexit deadlock. So I began cutting and pasting and quickly found the process both enjoyable and relaxing.

At the time of writing this post there is about 3 months elapsed since I started making these collages…perhaps a note on this would be appropriate. Three things have impacted me – firstly, I needed to complete my assessment submission for my last course documentary – something that took much longer and was much more difficult than I anticipated. In hindsight it has been a mistake for me to start digital image and culture without first finishing documentary completely. The other problem I faced with this was that I was quite unhappy with the submission I sent to the assessors and this had a negative effect on my confidence and motivation. Secondly, I have had a very busy time both at work and with family commitments meaning I have had little spare time. And lastly, we have been getting some major building work done in the house which has both taken longer than expected and been much more of an impact than I had anticipated. Thankfully all of this is now complete and I am trying to get back to grips with the course. I am feeling much more philosophical about my documentary submission – I passed the assessment and realise that at this stage this is all that matters in continuing with the degree programme. I do need to find a way I can move through the course quicker however as time is very much against me with this course.

After my hiatus I came back to my half finished collages and had to face up to the fact that part of the reason I had stopped making these half way was that although I was enjoying the process the results were far from anything I was happy to show. However, I resisted the urge to either throw them in the bin or not share them here as I realised it is important to show these as part of the learning and developing exercise that they are…even if this does take me out of my comfort zone.

In making the collages I was influenced by the early Dada pieces of Hannah Höch, John Heartfield and George Grosz such as ‘Cut with the kitchen knife through the belly of the Weimar Republic’ and ‘Life and times in the universal city at 12.05 noon’. The non linear nature of these, particularly the way attention is drawn to the cut and paste nature of the works, is what attracted me – perhaps I was also subconsciously hedging my bets that I could argue anything that looked homemade and rough in my own work was a result of a deliberate strategy on my part! Things I quickly learned from making these collages – using a scalpel is harder than you think, newspaper is not the easiest to cut, it is best to plan what you are doing rather than just sticking everything down, and, glue gets everywhere!

For the first collage about the Royal baby I found two images of Harry and Meghan that I managed to cut out successfully and decided to use at each corner of my A3 piece of card. Unfortunately, these were the first things I stuck in place without really thinking about it which severely limited what I could do compositionally! Also, I ran out of material to be able to add to the collage. I have started to add text which seems to work, but, there is not a enough of this. The ‘finished’ collage would benefit from more pictures and better planning, or being started again from scratch! Anyway..here it is:

For the second piece around the theme of Brexit, I started by creating a background of text made up of random paragraphs cut from the various newspapers. Next, I cut out any politicians associated with Brexit and any headlines or keywords that could be used. Something that struck me about my first attempt was how using pictures cut in a rectangular shape only worked if the edge was completely straight, something I did not achieve with very many. I had bought a compass scalpel so decided to crop all of the pictures out using this – something that contrasted well with the straight edges of the background and the headlines. To bring everything together, I placed everything randomly and then played around with where each image sat before sticking them in place. Again, this is far from something I am pleased with, but as an experimental exercise I have learned a great deal. Putting so many images together in this way can only result in something that is chaotic – something that I was initially interested in achieving but certainly lacks refinement and focus. Despite that, having a more planned approach here has made for a better final result:

Before moving on from this exercise, I decided to have another go using multiples of the same image. I secured half a dozen copies of local listings magazine ‘The Crack’ to use as my source material. I was immediately struck by the cover which featured a black and white portrait of the actor Albert Finney from the 60s looking rather cool and moody. This picture was reprinted on the contents page which gave me 2 sets of 6 identical pictures to use. Below are some rough assemblies of possible ways they could be brought together – I was researching the work of John Stezaker as I made this and his influence is evident:

Although these are just rough experiments where I have been playing around, they were quite enjoyable to make – I may even been improving in my scalpel skills! Looking at these next to the work of Stezaker shows how the simplicity of his approach makes his pieces much stronger. In terms of how this informs the physical requirements of the first part of assignment 1 I am not sure – my instinct is now towards a simple technique, perhaps involving straight cuts through the pictures. Also, I keep thinking about the way Daniel Gordon creates three dimensional work, that could almost be classed as sculpture, before rephotographing the completed compositions. I am wondering if there is a way I can use elements of this, although at this point I have no idea what this would look like.