The power of collage lies in its ability to “cut to the chase.” By relying on readymade images of objects instead of creating them from scratch, the collagist benefits from a complex web of associations already attached to each image by other people. When these “accepted” images are combined in unexpected ways, their respective attached associations combine as well — colliding, amplifying, distorting each other — and give birth to new worlds that can profoundly affect the viewer’s perceptions and emotions.
The resulting pictures often tend to respect the cultural conventions of vision, such as perspective, and to blend disparate objects in a seamless manner. In this way the collages may more effectively infiltrate and subvert a viewer’s visual consciousness and assumptions about consensual reality, and invent a unique symbolism.
The selection of nineteenth-century wood engravings as source material contributes other levels of intent to collage. The re-use of engravings is a kind of “recycling,” a way of sharing with others the beauty and artistry of pictures that would otherwise have lain unappreciated in decaying books, possibly never to be seen again. Moreover, these images from our past strongly evoke ancestral memory in a way that more modern pictures could not: though they appear quaint to our eyes, they evoke an immediate, unconscious sense of recognition in us, even if we have never before seen their subjects. Many of these engravings were direct reproductions of photographs, done at a time when our forebears were just learning to perceive and comprehend the planar, photographic vocabulary. Such pictures provide a link between the act of perception in that time and how we perceive today, conditioned as we are to accept the camera’s vision as our own.
(All artwork, descriptions, & other text created & copyright © by Eric Edelman. All rights reserved.)