While many might associate collage with the past – with Peter Blake and Jann Haworth’s cover for Sgt Pepper perhaps, or, even further back, with Picasso, Georges Braque and Kurt Schwitters – the medium has undergone a resurgence in recent years, in part due to the new possibilities offered by digital technology.
Proof of its current popularity lies within Cut That Out: Contemporary Collage in Graphic Design, a new book published this week by Thames & Hudson, which is curated by Manchester-based design duo DR.ME (aka Ryan Doyle and Mark Edwards) and profiles 50 artists using collage today, from Stefan Sagmeister to Hvass&Hannibal, Neasden Control Centre to Yokoland.
Also included are DR.ME themselves, who regularly used collage in their work and recently completed the 365 Days of Collage project, which, as its title suggests, saw the duo produce a new collage every day for a year. Below, we talk to them about what makes for a great piece of collage, and why the medium still matters today:
CR: What appeals to you about using collage?
DR.ME: You never know where it will take you: the unexpected nature of each composition is seemingly neverending. As with any medium you can get stuck in a rut, however, and we always find it important to be sourcing new material all of the time, from friends’ photographs, to out-of-print basketball almanacs, to the trusty old National Geographics from the last century. It then becomes even more interesting when you introduce different mediums like paint or pencil to give it an unexpected finish.
CR: Where do you get the images you make into collages?
DR.ME: All over the place. There is a wonderful thrift bookshop in Manchester called Paramount Books, but we also try to utilise imagery that we take ourselves and by friends. It’s always super important to find imagery when we’re travelling, old postcards, found family portraits, unusual books on religion, anything that is exciting and in some way unexpected.
CR: Are there certain kinds of images that feel ‘right’ for a collage?
DR.ME: There are classics, yes: mountains, sunsets, space etc. But I think as we continue to learn more about collage, it is important to try and search for the new ‘right’ rather than just re-creating classic works in your own style (although this is obviously how everyone learns).
CR: Is there a collage ‘community’ – how did you find the artists featured in Cut That Out?
DR.ME: I don’t think so, no, it’s a medium that sits within people’s broader practice. For instance, Aliyah Hussain, Anna Beam and John Powell-Jones also make a great deal of ceramic work and Stefan Sagmeister, Steve Hockett and Mirko Borsche are obviously more well-known for their graphic design, and Leif Podhajky and Lee Noble for their work within music packaging. We found the featured creatives over years of being lovers of collage and of design, realising that it is one of the connecting visual aesthetics of many of our favourite design studios.
CR: Why do you think collage is still such a popular medium today?
DR.ME: Because it changes. The introduction of digitally made collage is interesting – Mat Maitland‘s work, for example, shows that there is as much merit in creating work on screen as by hand, and does not reduce your possibilities. Its links with music always keep people coming back to it too, for example, Peter Blake’s work for the Beatles will always give people a reference to return to.
Cut That Out: Contemporary Collage in Graphic Design by Dr.ME is published on August 29, more info is at thameshudson.co.uk