The art of collage may have a long and varied history stretching back centuries, but as demonstrated by pop superstar Beyoncé’s recent unveiling of a collage to mark her 40th birthday, it’s having A Moment.
Now, a group of Scottish artists, including comedian Phill Jupitus, is cutting and pasting its way to a new way of seeing the world. The artists have been assembled by Alan Rae, owner of Fidra Fine Art in Gullane, a long-term fan of the art of collage. The East Lothian gallery owner wants to show how different artists use the medium in their work. He said; “I asked eight artists whose work I admire to create work for the exhibition, which opens here in Gullane on 9 October and runs until 21 November. It’s been a fascinating exercise watching the collages come in from all the artists, some of whom, like Alfons Bytautas, John Caldwell Brown, Simon Laurie, Ann Cowan and Alastair Strachan, are best known as painters and printmakers. For some, collage is the whole point, but others use it to help composition or to create texture and interesting layers. I’ve been looking at collages over the years from the likes of Colin Brown, who has an international reputation as a collage artist. But by having them all in the same room I’m hoping people will find it interesting to compare the different styles and be inspired.”
Fife-based comedian-turned-art student, Phill Jupitus, is currently in his third year at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art in Dundee. He explains; “The best thing about collage is the speed at which you can work with colour, form and narrative. I love the work of collage artists like Peter Blake. What’s great about his art is the deeper eye he has for connection and context. There’s a vivid flighty playfulness working alongside really concrete intention. Unexpected stories emerge as you construct a collage. It’s a compelling medium.”
While Jupitus favours overlaying vintage images from the mid-20th century featuring the likes of a young Lulu to Chairman Mao, Glasgow-based Alastair Strachan’s collages evolve from quick line drawings and develop by layering coloured papers created from left over paint from his palette. Several of his collages have been inspired by scenes from his own lockdown.
Edinburgh-based ceramic artist, Karen Thomson incorporates a variety of patterns, surface texture, forms and colour accents into ceramic plates. Thomson stamps and prints photographs which have been manipulated, then adds screen-printing and lithographic techniques.
There will be surprises along the way. John Caldwell Brown is better known as a painter. The artist, who trained at the Glasgow School of Art in the 1960s under the likes David Donaldson and Duncan Shanks says he has been using collage in his work for over 30 years. “Sometimes collage is a means to an end,” he says. “Other times it’s as an end in itself. I enjoy the magpie approach of finding the right piece in a studio full of possibilities. There are boxes of painted papers, offcuts, guillotined slices, collections of printed material, discarded gems waiting to be recycled. I am inspired by the ripped edges of paper juxtaposed to scissor cuts and an infinite variety of surface texture.”
Collage also features new work from Borders-born Alfons Bytautas. The renowned printmaker attended Edinburgh College of Art from 1972 to 1976 before going on to Paris to study at Atelier 17, the studio of acclaimed Modernist printmaker Stanley William Hayter. Bytautas was Master Printmaker at Edinburgh Printmakers’ Workshop from 1979 to 2009 and is world-recognised as an innovator in printmaking techniques.