Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Transmitter/Receiver: The Persistence of Collage

The other week I managed to catch the final few days of 'Transmitter/Receiver: The Persistence of Collage' at The New Art Gallery Walsall, I have a soft spot for collage, its a universal artform nearly everyone does it in some way, shape or form, and with the advent of the digital age its become even easier for artists to utilize found imagery. Tools such as Photoshop have meant artists no longer rely on scissors and glue, sites such as Pinterest mean that people can build up virtual scrapbooks of collage images, stories and finds. Whilst the exhibition doesn't directly tackle these concerns it does acknowledge them and explores how contemporary artists from the 1950's through to the 2000's have developed collage as an artform, thankfully the show avoids the usual suspects - although some are here, lesser known collage artists are included which helps make the exhibition feel more exciting and relevant.
I was excited to see a strong showing of Feminist collage, from Linder, Kate Davies, Margaret Harrison, Jo Spence and The Hackney Flashers: whose work was particularly evocative, simply produced and displayed it mimicked and in some cases directly used the public service posters of the 70's to deliver its message of a woman's role in society in the series; "Who's Holding the Baby?"

SPENCE, Jo & The Hackney Flashers, « Who’s Holding the Baby ? », Exhibition Panel from Who’s Holding the Baby ?, 1977-1978, Three Perspectives on Photography, Recent British Photography, Londres, Arts Council of Great Britain, 1979 Being a big fan of Morrissey I am well aware of Linder and her artwork so I was excited about her inclusion in the exhibition with her now iconic graphic collages, which direct their criticism at her peers rather than an 'establishment' choosing to question the notions held of the female body and sexuality, often using household items attacking or penetrating the female figure:

Linder, Untitled (1981). Collage
© Linder, courtesy Arts Council Collection

Peter Kennard's photomontage of Constable's Haywain takes an iconic and instantly recognizable image and uses it to shock the viewer into seeing the image in a new context, by placing missiles and gasmasks into the original cart Kennard draws parallels between war and famine/poverty but also highlights the fact that Suffolk  [the location of the scene] was host to American weapon bases in the late twentieth century a fact not widely known or associated with the area, but in Kennard's view was a threat to the idyllic view of rural England presented in the scene... Its also interesting to see the piece which was made in the early 80's and compare it with some of Banksy's more recent modifications of traditional English landscapes...

Haywain with Cruise Missiles, ©Peter Kennard, 1980

Mark Titchner
"The Invisible Republic" 2006

Using collage in a slightly different way Mark Titchner uses found text - in this case a corporate mission statement, and uses it as a comment on the relations between art and commerce.

John STezaker, Pair V, Collage (c) the artist. Courtesy the Arts Council Collection

Grayson Perry 'Spirit Jar' 1994, Earthernware. (c) Grayson Perry. Courtesy the Arts Council Collection

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