Collaged images, fractured text, and the duplicity of mirrors…

Yesterday was one of the most productive trips I’ve had to London for ages. I’m blogging to distil my thoughts to separate the essential wheat from the nice-to-know chaff and I’m aware what I say leaps from one topic to another, but please bear with me!

Seeing work by Hannah Hoch and Kader Attia at the Whitechapel Gallery yesterday compels me to say:

Collage activates; it uses the alienated components it’s made from to produce something new. Not a new entity as such, but an attempted repair of the old. If this repair is successful and fully resolved, the matter may end there, but if not, one is driven to repeat.

This statement isn’t blindingly new — I’ve been in this territory for some time — but it reflects a refining of my views.

Claire Manning, 'To adorn n.02', 2014
Claire Manning, ‘To adorn n.02’, 2014

Hoch’s post war work leads me to question how I’ve collaged a piece like To adorn (above). It uses a decoupage layered approach to order objects by scale, whereas Hoch’s arrangements put colour, line and form mounted flatly to work to deliver a fantasy. From a distance, their quality is organic and leaf-like and the detailed otherness of their components is revealed only by close inspection. Although more symmetrically organised in its approach, to some extent the Cornelia Parker piece, below, has some similar qualities.

Cornelia Parker, 'Fleeting Monument'
Cornelia Parker, ‘Fleeting Monument’

I’m due to make a piece for an exhibition later this year responding to the collection of Maidstone Museum. Wandering round the museum a painting by Petrus Schotanus, Vanitas: still life with a globe, has seduced me, triggering the response to take one volume of Vogue and collage all the images of women and fashion into a single frame of excessive vanitas. However, questions posed by Hoch and Parker’s pieces demand I rethink how the elements of this are arranged and attached in more detail.

On another tack, Attia’s use of mirrors (below) take his piece to a fascinating place; an endlessly repeating reflection of architecture and artwork bounced back and forth between dual mirrors. This has tremendous possibilities to multiply the images and interference of the In the shadow of her gaze series. Why stop at vertical reflection? A second piece could add its voice with angled refraction, and so on, endlessly. The only practical way to test this is, I think to make a virtual gallery space to scale and explore what happens.

Kader Attia, 'Continuum Repair: The Light of Jacobs Ladder' (detail)
Kader Attia, ‘Continuum Repair: The Light of Jacobs Ladder’ (detail)

In the down time between exhibitions and talking to friends, I read Janice Galloway’s The Trick is to Keep Breathing (London: Vintage Books, 1999). It’s described as an account from the inside of a mind that’s cracking up. Galloway’s approach is to fracture the voice heard, dividing the experience into constantly shifting perspectives and events, half finished, incomplete, and dislocating certainty in the reading position. It’s unsettling — nausea-provoking to some extent — but also compelling. The words don’t only tell the story but provoke some semblance of the emotions felt by the voice recounting the tale. It embeds heightened emotions into the experience, something I strived for to a lesser extent in the way my research paper is written. But could I develop this further? What would happen to the readers experience if, rather than being linear, ideas looped back and forth — a collaging of perspectives, interrupting each other only to come back into clearer focus once again?

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