Collage – artist examples

Collage is an art form that is having a resurgence.  Or maybe it never went away?  Regardless, it is finding its way back into art galleries and into the practice of some well known Sydney artists.  From its early days from the start of the 20th Century, with Picasso and Braque, it has traversed from modernism, satirical, to the decorative and craft.  Resting at the tacky flower decoupaged potpourri holder arts in the mid 1990’s.

But collage is a beautiful thing.  And it is a very accessible art form to introduce into the classroom, at any stage.

collage 1
Artist: Chelsea Tuesday, Sydney Collage Society, image sourced from: http://sydneycollagesociety.com/chelsea-tuesday/.

The Sydney Collage Society, established in 2015, is one such group that pushes the boundaries of the cut-and-paste.  A group exhibition, titled Cut It Out!,  (at Low Road Garage in Paddington) was a complete mix up of different collage techniques to show many different ways the art form can be applied.

Another fantastic artist is Oliver Watts, who makes paper cut works. Inspired from Dadaism, and the French poet Tristian Tzara, Watts creates intricate pictures and the re-telling of stories, all from assembling pieces of cut paper.  Watts further explored the genre of collage and paper cuts with his short film, The Sea Hare, 2013, where he re-imagined a fairy tale, based on one by the Brothers Grimm, of a princess in a tower with 12 windows.  Placed quite firmly in the cerebral, Watts’ playful works always make you think.  And they are always beautiful as well.

My favorite collage creating duo are Greedy Hen.  These two awesome ladies have created some wondrous images and landscapes from layering image upon image.  The duo are regularly commissioned to create album cover art for bands, and films clips, and posters and even a clip of kittens smashing up instruments for MTV.  The works traverse easily to the moving image, and always have a sense of play.

Collage – artist examples

Eco Art and Artists

Ecological sustainability and the environment are big topics.  The climate and how the actions of humanity are affecting the planet are important areas of discussion, for the classroom and beyond.  From November 30 to December 11, 2015,  COP21 will be held, (also known as the 2015 Paris Climate Conference).  COP21 is the 21st annual conference, held by the United Nations, that brings together heads of state and country to discuss climate change and the positive actions to take to combat it.  As part of the conference, the UN is also organizing a corresponding exhibition, titled Artists 4 Paris Climate 2015, inviting 16 artists from around the world to make an artwork that deals with climate and the environment.  Among the 16 artists is Australian born, and Sydney based, Janet Laurence.

There are other artists that produce work within the emerging term of EcoArt, or Ecological Art, and many can be accessed right here in New South Wales.

Historical Framework
EcoArt can be looked at historically in relation to the 1970s and the Earthworks, Earth Art and Land Art movements that mainly originated in the USA.  Having links to Arte Povera, for the use of natural and easily found objects, Earth Artists generally used materials that were located at the site, such as rocks and dirt, and essentially created the term site specific.  This was also a way of questioning the commodity of art in relation to the white cube and the four walls of the gallery space, as the artworks could not be easily removed form the natural site.  In 1968 – 1969 Christo and Jeanne-Claude came to Sydney, as the first Kaldor Art Project, and wrapped the Little Bay coastline in fabric, creating Wrapped Coast – One Million Square Feet.  An example of an environmental artwork, where the terrain of the earth is used as a sculptural reference in the artwork.

Michaela Gleave
Artist Michaela Gleave does not overtly call herself an EcoArtist, or an artist who deals with ecological themes, although many of her works are temporal and deal with natural phenomena.  Looking at Gleave’s work as a form of EcoArt  opens up the Subjective Frame for discussion, as we are finding different layers of meaning in the work than the artist intended.
Cloud Field (Föhn Bank)2007, is an artwork that essentially immerses the audience in an enclosed space of clouds.  Gleave creates a mini ecosystem inside the gallery walls and brings the outside natural environment into the gallery space, the opposite to what many of the artists from the 1970s Land Art movement did who created site specific works, which required the audience to travel to the artwork.  The clouds in Cloud Field are made form harvested rain water, and use an ultrasonic system that creates a dense heavy cloud that floats on the floor of the created space, incorporating scientific methods into the artwork.

Another artwork which brought the outside environment into the space of the gallery was the 2012 artwork by Gleave titled Our Frozen Moment.  Opposite to Cloud Field, which was a white and light artwork that almost rendered the audience member invisible in the atmospheric environment that floated up from below, Our Frozen Moment was a very orchestrated, theatrical and dark piece.  The artwork required the audience member to put on a rain coat, like a costume, to enter the darkened space.  This made the visitors perform the role of an actor in the artwork.  Once inside the dark room, the visitor climbed onto a boxing ring type space and water rained down on them from above, again bringing in the outside world into the space of the gallery.

Another artist who deals, overtly, with issues of climate change and the environment is Tega Brain.  Brain’s work comments directly on issues of capitalism, politics and the environment. Brain comes from a cross-disciplinary background in environmental and water engineering, and also like Gleave, uses machines and science in her artworks to make comments  on the environment.  In 2011 Brain made the artwork Coin Operated Wetland, exhibited at Firstdraft Gallery. As the title suggests, Brain created a coin operated laundromat in the gallery space, that used the water from a man made mini wetland.  Issues of the environmental impact of humans on wetlands is explored in the artwork, and the priorities of bright whites vs nature.

Outcomes:
Art making/ practice:  Stages 1 to 3 students can explore ideas of using found objects in nature to make art. This could be further linked it to the idea of Arte Povera, and could have students source recycled materials from around the home to create sculptures.
OR
Have students create site specific artworks with natural found objects, such as a giant sand sculpture, and photograph is at time and nature slowly erode it.
OR
Stages 4 to 6 students can incorporate elements of science to create works which either directly comment on the environment or reference the environment in some way.
OR
Students can create their own environmental space, bringing the outside world into the gallery. Something as small as a terrarium of a wetland, to as large as completely transforming a room with sounds and lights.  This could be taken to the digital world, and and students could create their idea environment through digital technology.
Conceptual Framework: Michaela Gleaves artworks can be discussed in relation to the artist intention, audience perception, and artwork meaning relationship. The involvement of the audience to give the work meaning, namely in Our Frozen Moment can also be explored.
Frames:
Subjective: What do these artworks, and other artworks that deal with the environment, mean to you? Do you think it’s an important theme for artists to may comments on?
Cultural: What role is the artist performing in creating artworks which make commentary on the environment. Do you agree with the artist and the comment they are making though their artwork?
Structural: The scientific aspects of the work can be outlined and the links between art and science can be further discussed.
Postmodern: Look at the history of Land Art and Earth Art and also the artwork of Christo and Jean-Claude form 1969, Wrapped Coast, in relation to the EcoArt from the present day.  Are there similarities?  Are the same ideas being addressed?

Additional resources:

Eco Art and Artists

David Capra

David Capra is an artist that deals primarily with performance and experience, inviting the audience to be part of the artwork to give it structure and meaning.  He does not perform on a stage with the audience silently watching on.  Capra directly involves the audience to experience the artwork, in turn making them a part of it.  He calls himself an ‘intercessory artist’, whose work takes the form of interventions into physical and social space designed to initiate healing. (Information sourced from the MCA website: http://www.mca.com.au/artists-and-works/artist-commissions/david-capra-teenas-bathtime-2015/).

The Conceptual Framework discussion:
The Ministry of Handshakes is an artwork where Capra shakes audience and visitor’s hands with a giant prop arm.  Capra greets audience members as they enter an area or space, or in alternative versions of the performance, Capra walks towards members of the audience and public, making the artwork space mobile and actively bringing it to the audience.  This artwork involves the audience directly through the artist initiating contact with them, inviting them into the space to be involved in the artwork, but at the same time distancing them, as the artist is using a two meter long prop arm, having the audience shake his hand from a distance.   If you look at the artist’s statement about his performance practice, where he calls himself an ‘intercessory artist’, this distancing could also be viewed as a means of trying to help, though cautiously respecting people’s personal space, but welcoming them.

This artwork, and artist David Capra, is a great way to discuss The Conceptual Framework, the relationship between the artist, audience and artwork.  The Subjective Frame can also be discussed, in relation to the space the artist creates through welcoming visitors but keeping a long distance away from them, and how the students interpret the meaning of the space created by the artist.

Teena’s Bathtime Eau De Wet Dogge perfume, 100ml bottle. Photo by Damien Brinley, courtesy the artist.
Teena’s Bathtime Eau De Wet Dogge perfume, 100ml bottle. Photo by Damien Brinley, courtesy the artist.

David Capra has a sausage dog (dachsund) called Teena.  Capra has incorporated Teena into a number of his artworks.  In 2013 he invited audience members to dance with Teena as part of Workout at the MCA.  And in early 2015 Capra made Teena’s Bathtime, also at the MCA, where he re-created the experience of bathing Teena in a special room that immersed all the senses in the experience.  There was the smell of wet dog; the visuals of Teena being bathed and bubbles floating in the air; a giant Teena sculpture you could touch; the sound of Teena being bathed; and during a special public program event (with a meet and greet with Teena and Capra) dog treats that you could make were available to give to your dog to taste.  Teena doesn’t like having a bath, and is anxious about the experience.  This is understood from watching the video of Teena having a bath and from discussions Capra has with audiences during public program events.  In Capra’s discussions with audience members about Teena’s Bathtime, a lot of discussion is centered around mental health and anxiety.  People have written letters of support to Teena offering advice on how to manage her anxiety.

This year (2015) Capra also launched another artwork about Teena at Gallery 9, called Teena’s Bathtime – Eau de Wet Dogge.  This artwork is an extension of Teena’s Bathtime and is another immersive performance experience.  The exhibition at Gallery 9 was the launch of a perfume Capra created, with the help of professional perfumer Jonathon Midgley from Damask Perfumery The perfume smells of flowers, wet dog fur, and sour bath bubbles.  Everyone at the exhibition said they could smell different dog related smells in the perfume.  It is a playful artwork that comments on the world of perfume making and the sense of smell and the experience of bathing Teena.  During the opening Capra walked around with Teena on a leash, welcoming the visitors to the perfume launch.

David Capra and Teena during the opening of Teena’s Bathtime – Eau de Wet Dogge, at Gallery 9, 11 November 2015. Photo by Damien Brinley, courtesy the artist.
David Capra and Teena the dog greeting audience members during the opening of Teena’s Bathtime – Eau de Wet Dogge, at Gallery 9, 11 November 2015. Photo by Damien Brinley, courtesy the artist.

Outcomes
Practice: Students could try making an immersive experience using one or all of the senses.
OR
It could be extended to exploring the concept of Synesthesia. They could pick an experience and try to recreate it with a different sensory experience. Example: Recreate the sound, smell and touch of eating a burger or ice cream; or the feeling and visuals of music.
OR
For Stages 1 to 3 Creative Art Students an additional resource to extend the exploration of sensory representation of colours is a book called The Black Book of Colors.  This is an excellent resource to explore blindness and colour experience through touch and description.
Conceptual Framework: Students can consider and discuss David Capra’s relationship with the audience in his artworks.  This is best explored through the artwork The Ministry of Handshakes. 
Frames:
Subjective: Discuss the sensory and immersive experience of the work, and what it means to the student. What are some of the key words that describe the artwork experience for you.
Cultural: Issues of anxiety and mental health can be explored.  The anxiety of Teena having a bath, and how Capra has addressed this through exploring the experience and creating a sensory environment that invites the audience to help Teena deal with her anxiety.
Structural: What visual and sensory language does artist David Capra use to convey his artwork? How does using all the senses (sight, sound, taste, smell and touch) and involving the audience in a performance change the experience of the artwork compared to a 2D artwork?
Postmodern: How does artist David Capra challenge mainstream ideas about art?  How does he represent his ideas in the artworks and how are his artworks different to others you have seen?

Resource links:

David Capra

The Conceptual Framework

The Conceptual Framework is how students start to grasp the bigger meanings in artworks. It provides a context of questions, a framework, that students can apply to artworks to start to deconstruct and unravel layers of meaning and interpretations of those meanings.  It can be the beginning of understanding that the world is a vast and complex place that could very well be a fishbowl, balancing on an elephants back, floating out in space, on top of a whale.  That anything can mean everything, and nothing, all at the same time.  But for sanity in the classroom questions tend to be structured around more tangible and relational areas of understanding and explanation.

The Conceptual Framework is represented by a diagram that is very masonic in its appearance, the mythical triangle of meaning.  It places the artwork in the center of the triangle (or on top of the pyramid of power!) and has the world, audience and artist at each point, being the four agencies (or concepts).  All four concepts interact and converge, which creates meaning for an artwork.

The Conceptual Framework is understood from exploring the four concepts from within the four Frames, which are the Subjective, Cultural, Structural and Postmodern.  Add in art making/practice and you have the trifecta of the Creative Arts Syllabus.  Most students will happily slop around with paint (‘Don’t pour so much out! It’s a waste!‘ is a phrase I have said very very often), but engaging them to open up with discussion and to understand the concepts and frames on how to questions and view art is harder.  But once they have a clear understanding, they can apply the concepts, viewpoints and questions to other subjects (e.g. in English when reflecting on a novel) and it allows students to be more reflective and critical in their understanding.

The Conceptual Framework diagram, 7-10 Creative Arts Syllabus, N.S.W., 2003.
The Conceptual Framework diagram, 7-10 Creative Arts Syllabus, N.S.W., 2003.

The World:

The Audience:

The Artist:

The Artwork:

The Conceptual Framework