Must a collage be glued down…or can it float free, unanchored?

I’ve been making collages with edges that aren’t fully fixed down for some time now. I’m both frightened of and seduced by the possibility they are at risk of collapse and capable of re-configuration on a whim. However, my endeavours so far feel somewhat half hearted: to date, the biggest ‘collapse’ to occur was for a minor section of one of the collages within In the shadow of her gaze n.02 to fall forward.  However, is there actually a need for any element to be permanently attached? Could every component remain separate – self-contained – or would this render the work no longer a collage?

 Things said about collage:

  • The word ‘collage’ is derived ‘from the French word for “to glue”’ (1)
  • It is ‘an artistic composition made of various materials (as paper, cloth, or wood) glued on a surface’ (2)
  • Through it, disparate pieces sourced from a frenzy of material are forced to become one (3)
  • It involves cut edges, distinct parts, assemblage, and hierarchical arrangements (4)
  • It is ‘a piece of art made by sticking various different materials such as photographs and pieces of paper or fabric on to a backing’ (5)
  • It is ‘a collection or combination of various things’ (6)

What I conclude from these opinions is that my proposal not to glue things down distances what I make from the traditional fine art notion of collage. However, many of the other characteristics embodied within what I make link to the approach of collaging. My conclusion: the work operates closer to a non-fine art view of the medium as an arranged collection of elements.

One could argue my attachment to the term ‘collage’ is irrelevant. Why not label it as assemblage, for instance? However, for now it seems to supply an anchor point I’m finding useful for making and in terms of my conceptual thinking.

On another tack all-together, the phrase ‘the animal necessity of ruining each other first’ caught my attention in a book I’m currently reading. (7) The implication: to ruin is linked to the animal in us. Is the ‘ruining’ of the image that takes place in collage linked to the animal? I think, in my case, I may argue (and wish) logic underpins it, linking it to a palatable philosophical viewpoint, but in truth my actions are governed by the instinctual, primary motivations of the animal. This is hard to admit, acknowledging a loss of control to the base within us, perhaps revealing more of my nature than I wish.

  1.  James Gallagher, ‘Preface’ in Cutting Edges: Contemporary Collage, (Berlin: Gestalten, 2011), p.2.
  2. Ibid
  3. Ibid.
  4. Clunie Reid, Artists’ Roundtable: Perspectives on Collage, (London: Photographer’s Gallery, March 2013).
  5. Oxford Dictionaries, <>, accessed 21st November 2013.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Sarah Hall, The Beautiful Indifference, (London: Faber and Faber, 2011), p.43.

One thought on “Must a collage be glued down…or can it float free, unanchored?

  1. Another comment I’ve found about collage which struck a real resonate cord with me in terms of the way this work operates (or, rather, that I want it to operate) is that collage breaks ‘illusions of continuity’, operating as ‘a shock’; […] ‘a way to articulate discontinuity’

    Source: Eivind Buene, ‘Delirious Brahms Investigations in the Music Chamber’ in ‘The Journal for Artistic Research’ (, 2nd January 2014)

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