Cut and Paste: 400 Years of Collage

I’d been looking forward to the Cut and Paste: 400 Years of Collage exhibition, on at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in the Dean Village, Edinburgh for a while now. Waiting until the festival was over and my lovely city had returned to normal, I finally headed over to one of the nicest galleries in town, with the most beautiful grounds! (you can check out my last visit here)

Image 1. Adorned print circa early 1700’s ‘Calpurnia Imperatrice’ Images 2+3. Adorned print circa early 1700’s ‘Madmoiselle Sublingny Dancing’

The exhibition was over in Modern2, staged over the 2 floors. The first rooms were really interesting to see the history of how collage (as it would later be known) featured within mixed media pieces, often etchings. The pieces above from the 17th Century demonstrate a playful take on early collage, cutting out elements of the original engraving and placing fabric and adornments behind. Not quite the collage of today, which involves cutting and sticking on top, this early practice has a reverse approach – however works in a similar way!

Going back further I really enjoyed the 16th century anatomical flap books. Incredibly intricate, of German origin, these books take you back to childhood books of a similar functionality. It was funny to see these ‘adult’ books, with such simplistic yet effective elements, beautifully presented and turned out.

Mary Delany ‘Octandria Monogynia’ 1776

Of course I then moved on to 16th century floral collage, anyone familiar with the blog will know I love all things floral so that was a nice treat so see some of these early floral pieces!

Heading upstairs we made the jump to the 19/20th century, with artists whose collages I was more familiar with, like Kurt Schwitters and Picasso. I actually taught a collage workshop previously on the style of Schwitters so it was a nice nostalgic moment to see them again!

Images 1-4. Kurt Schwitters (‘Hot Water’ and ‘Mz 299: for V.J. Kuron’ both 1921), Image 5. Picasso ‘Head’ 1913

It was during this period that the term collage first made an appearance. Derived from the French word “coller” which means “to glue”. Many movements adopted the collage technique, including the futurists in Italy and the Dadaists of New York, Zurich and Berlin. It quickly became the go to protest method for artists, representing modernity and a new way of expressing the world, and politics around them.

Image 1. Hannah Höch, from the collection ‘From an Ethnographic Museum’ 1929, Image 2. Jamie Reid ‘Never Mind the bollocks’ 1977, Image 3. Raoul Hausmann ‘The Art Critic’ 1920, Image 4. Linder ‘Pretty Girl’ 1977

In the latter half of the 20th century Pop art of course made its technicolour explosion onto the art scene. With the post war boom in consumer driven advertising many artists took inspiration, imagery and text from these everyday items and transformed them into iconic pieces of Pop Art. Artists like Rosenquist and Warhol lead the way in adding collage elements to this exciting new way of working.

Image 1. James Rosenquist ‘Nasturtium Salad’ 1984, Image 2. Andy Warhol ‘Self Portrait with Fright Wig’ 1986, Image 3. Pauline Boty ‘Untitled’ 1964, Image 4. Richard Lindner ‘Untitled’ 1965

Contemporary collage comes in many forms. Artists use found images from books, magazines and the internet to cut and paste, layering up their work in a variety of mediums. From the minimalist and streamline, to the 3D. Attaching figurines, toys and even crockery to give further dimension. The rise of photoshop and other photo editing softwares are also becoming prominent ways for artists to utilise collage methods, without necessarily even picking up a pair of scissors.

Image 1. Annegret Soltau ‘GRIMA – Self with Cat (The Scream)’ 1986, Image 2. Jim Lambie ‘Sticky Fingers’ 2010, Image 3. Jean François Rauzier ‘National Gallery, London’ 2018

In this exhibition, Eduardo Paolozzi’s studio is recreated to indicate a ‘real world’ incarnation of a living collage. Paolozzi was a prolific collage artist of the 20th century, born just down the road in Leith, Edinburgh. His work is a staple part of many featured and permanent exhibitions here at the Modern Galleries, and I enjoyed the metaphor element in this installation, of his life mirroring a collage in itself. Although it did feel a little like it was just another opportunity to wheel out more Paolozzi! Not that i’m complaining- he is awesome.. 😉

Paolozzi’s Studio, Installation

The exhibition while interesting in parts, sadly fell a bit short of my expectations. It would have been better if they’d been able to get hold of more prominent pieces linked with collage, to give a more rounded account of this medium. A particularly disappointing area was room 4: Collage and Protest. This collection lacked any mention of the great protest collagist’s such as Barbara Kruger, which was somewhat disappointing to have no acknowledgement at all, you can’t just skip history! Well, maybe you can..

This was me with Barbara Kruger’s ‘Who Owns What?’ in the Tate, London, a few years back.

Although an overall underwhelming exhibition, it was none the less an interesting insight into some of the earlier collage works. I did leave wanting to have a go at making my own and after rummaging in a couple charity shops for botanical books, I set to work. I ended up having a lovely weekend cutting and placing items between old sheets of perspex I had lying around. Its quite a therapeutic way of working really, and something i’d like to experiment more with. So, overall I had a pretty fun time with this post!

Here’s my finished foray into collage. A floral number, built up on sheets of perspex. There was a bee.. but I lost him, it’s fiddly work and so easy to misplace pieces!

Do you collage, or what do you make of mine? Give it a go and send me your collages and i’ll share them on my social media!

This exhibition runs until October 27th. To organise your visit and see whats currently on at The Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, head on over to their website for more information. Please let me know what you thought of it and let me know any exhibition recommendations you have!

If you like what you see, leave a COMMENT and SUBSCRIBE to OiOi Arts for MORE!

Check out the rest of my blog/website, to get a feel for what makes me tick! See you next time…

If you cant wait, why not check out some of my other posts here or here?!

*All photos taken by Anna Thomson. All images remain sole copyright of Anna Thomson for OiOi Arts.

**Cover image is taken from Jacques Villeglé ‘Les Jazzmen’ 1961

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