There is an inherent nostalgia to Jazz Grant’s work, which has resonated with audiences and globally renowned clients at a time when the world has been forced to retreat indoors. For creatives as much as anyone else, the past year has presented an occasion to comb through materials and memories, whether archives of work or old home videos and photos. Grant’s work, imbued with echoes of the past by the very nature of collage, has struck a collective chord.
While her technique is largely analogue and handmade, her work has appeared in animations and films, such as FIFA21’s surprisingly intimate promotional film which was released last summer. After collaborating with her brother (who had taught himself stop motion), she has begun to explore animation herself as an extension of her practice, including in Rhyging Sun, a collaged stop-motion film comprising material from Jamaican film The Harder They Come.
The process of collage is similar to producing or mixing music, each a form of expression often reliant on inspired sampling or the blending of elements in pursuit of something both cerebral and emotional. Grant’s work, which involves a striking interplay between contrasting palettes, patterns and textures, embodies this.
Being constantly surrounded by images means there is no shortage of resources, with charity shops being a key spot to collect old books and magazines full of beautiful photographs. Previous series have been based on a single found book; others incorporate her own candid street photography taken on her phone or the work of photographers, and she’s currently exploring using old family photos. Grant is often drawn in by striking lines and forms, although the most important condition is that she feels connected to an image.
As for influences, she looks to everyone from filmmaker and artist John Akomfrah to the Surrealists, including their Surrealist Map of the World which illustrates their “interpretation and idealistic rejection of Western colonial rule”, she says. “Their unconventional attitude and intention of distorting reality really resonate with me.”
For Grant, collage is an art form that’s both accessible (“it isn’t elitist, you don’t have to have a wealthy family and it’s fun”) and adjustable, with her process involving photocopying or scanning at every stage so she can catalogue her decisions.
Her affinity with collage was seemingly set in motion as a child. She remembers creating costumes – a weeks-long ritual of painting and papier-mâché – for the children’s parade in Brighton, where she grew up, as young as three years old. Yet collage wasn’t the career path she planned, having specialised in menswear fashion at the London College of Fashion and interning with esteemed designer Grace Wales Bonner.
“I remember being shown the designer Aitor Throup on my art foundation and being so impressed by his process and garment construction,” she recalls. “It wasn’t really the aesthetic but the architecture of his clothes. I was really intrigued by how designers went from the 2D to the 3D and he seemed to do it with such ease. I think I chased after this feeling and tried to access it myself but it never really clicked into place when I went about it. I was always torn between the incredibly over the top and creative with the more practical, structured and commercial ways of designing.”
She remembers her final collection as “outrageous” outfits replete with denim ruffles and looking back, she feels it resembled collage. “I definitely look at the garments and fabric in images when cutting, so I think my initial interest and knowledge of garments is intrinsically part of me and the way that I work,” she says. “I’m sure I will make clothes in some capacity again and fuse the two together.”
Following a one-off collage exercise at LCF, Grant began to take the art form more seriously. She started making her own creations that she’d give away as gifts and was later invited by fashion designer Bianca Saunders to participate in an exhibition alongside the likes of photographer Ronan Mckenzie and filmmaker Akinola Davies Jr.
Grant has gone on to work with a number of leading fashion clients, including creating a touching collage of footballer turned campaigner Marcus Rashford for a Burberry project, which was translated into a 10-metre high mural in his Manchester hometown.
“It’s amazing that a collage translated onto the side of a building, and looked good! It still blows my mind. I will never forget seeing it in real life for the first time,” says Grant, who had only really worked with A3 prior to the project. “I drew out the building onto my wall scaled down to 10% to get a feeling of the building but it was impossible to know for sure.”
Another fashion client came in the form of Gucci for its collaboration with the North Face. As part of the project, led by A Vibe Called Tech, Grant collaged portraits celebrating four leading figures who highlight Black history through education and curation. Elsewhere, she has contributed to a zine tracing the history of Notting Hill Carnival with the Black Curriculum (a non-profit striving to introduce more Black British history to UK curriculums) and she was commissioned by The Face last year to channel Steve McQueen’s lauded Small Axe anthology into collages.
“When I was younger, I would celebrate any time I came across art, film, photography, fashion, anything, that a Black person had either created or been the subject of,” she says. “Of course, it existed, but it was rare to come across. It’s becoming less rare now and I still celebrate.”