Social media has made ventriloquists of us all – through our online profiles and timelines we speak in quotations, found images, videos and music, each of us creating a unique assemblage that expresses an individual sense of self. Speaking through found media has become a shared language, a common tongue. Collage, as a medium, has never been more relevant. Thinking about the ubiquity of this new form of assemblage offers us a lens through which we might consider, or reconsider, artworks made in the medium of collage. Clement Greenberg’s seminal text ‘Collage’ attributed the invention of the technique to Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso – in its relatively short history how has the medium changed, and how has our reading of it changed? In a world saturated with images, how do contemporary artists arrest our insatiable consumption of images and help us to focus on looking? In Tim Davies’ series of sanded postcards ‘Bridges’ are meticulously removed from their contexts, their surroundings delicately excised with a scalpel. Cristina Garrido, by contrast, seeks to remove all but context in her series ‘Veil of Invisibility’, painstakingly painting over the artworks depicted in a group of postcards purchased from museum gifts hops. Among the 22 postcards that Garrido has overpainted is a piece by Susan Hiller, one of Britain’s most influential artists, whose 1983 work ‘Towards an Autobiography of Night’, included in IN QUOTES, is the earliest work in the exhibition. The 12 C-type photographs are enlargements of postcards depicting rough seas of the British coast, hand painted by Hiller with gold ink, and explore the transformation of materials, the tradition of the sublime, and homage to the unknown photographers and artists of the original postcards. Hiller’s influence can be seen in Holly Stevenson’s ‘Palmy Bonheur’ works, which have been framed with reference to the format of another of Susan Hiller’s seminal postcard works. Stevenson is interested in the philosophical argument that art is a promise of happiness and her work is concerned with symbols and materials that reference bonheur. Stevenson’s use of bright floral imagery is echoed in the work of Alex March, whose collages combine flowers with antique studio portraits, and explore themes of removal, concealment, revelation and what those strategies might hint at. The photomontages by Linder also depict flowers – dancers whose heads have been replaced with roses, and a man and woman with their eyes obscured by blooms. A pioneering feminist artist, Linder’s work calls into question the politics of gender and the commodification of the human body. Sharon Kivland’s series MOI, 2016/17 shares a dialogue with Linder’s exploration of the representation of women, in a group of hand drawn straplines taken from magazines of the 1950s. In contrast to Kivland’s elevation of quoted text, Rowena Hughes’ sculpture ‘Undue Flexure’ denies the viewer access to the text contained within the reference books that she has bound with elastic bands to form an assemblage that explores the status of books as objects in a post internet age. The transformation of books is also explored in a group of collages by Ann-Marie James. Constructed from the pages of a first edition of André Malraux’s seminal work ‘Le Musée Imaginaire’, Ann-Marie James uses a variety of techniques to create her own imaginary museum; pages are woven together, punched with holes, or a single page is cut and folded to partially reveal the image on the other side. This interest in obscuring and revealing elements of an image is central to John Stezaker’s ‘Masks’ series, in which the facial features of stars in film publicity portraits are overlaid with found postcards depicting landscapes, creating new meanings and characters. This minimalist approach to the layering of imagery is shared by Jorge De La Garza, whose collages combine a range of imagery including sphinxes from gravestones in Attica, women’s bodies, astronomical phenomena and references to commodities in everyday life. Cornelia Parker’s ‘Shared Fate’ gives new meanings to 5 objects – a newspaper, a loaf of bread, a tie, gloves, and cards – all of which have been cut by the guillotine that beheaded Marie Antoinette. In this work, the appropriated object (the guillotine) is at once both present and absent.
IN QUOTES will present works by an exciting range of contemporary artists working with collage and assemblage across generations. The exhibition includes new and existing pieces using postcards, books, altered photographs and illustrations.