Page 1

Collage as drawing

Phil Simon

IS Collage Drawing? In order to argue collage as a form of drawing, firstly we need to understand what drawing is; the term is very vague and there have been many definitions but I shall break it down according to a concise definition from Vitamin D. I shall then analyse how collage is able to compare to these functions to constitute it as a form of drawing.

Drawing is:

Used as a global visual language when verbal language communication fails. As adults we use it pragmatically to sketch our own maps and plans, but we also use it to dream - in doodles and scribbles. We use drawing to denote ourselves, our existence within a scene : in the urban context, for example graffiti acts as a form of drawing within an expanded field. Indeed, drawing is part of interrelation to our physical environment, recording in and on it, the presence of the human. It is a means by which we can understand and map, decipher, and come to terms with our surroundings as we leave marks, tracks, or shadows to mark our passing. Footprints in the snow breath on the window, vapour trails of a plane across the sky, lines traced by a finger in the sand- we literally draw in and on the material world. Drawing is part of what it means to be human. (Dexter, 2005, p6)

Through analysis we can break the purpose of drawing into three main categories; to communicate ideas, as a form of visual discovery and a way of marking our existence.

Communicating ideas: One of the key concepts of drawings is their ability to convey an idea visually, whatever the artist has decided their drawing to be about and the message its required to carry. Images are often used alongside pieces of text and an image that is effective at communicating an idea, will allow the viewer a grasp of what the text is regarding. There are many decisions that take place in how it should go about doing this, from the content of the drawing to the materials used and how the media used affects the message from the drawing. Drawing does this using “a line or delineation that speaks of this or that - and the mark that functions as a sign, which possibly is connected to other signs.” (Newman, 2003, p73) In drawings icons are represented as a series of lines and you decipher what they represent by the process of signification, and we should be able to tell what it is. When we consider that traditional drawing does this through representational lines, a series of lines embodying the subject, where as in collage, the same is true, although there is the option of using a section of a photograph to reduce the ambiguity. Therefore making it clearer exactly what is being shown even if the composition of the final drawing is a little less coherent than the original. At the same time, depending on how it’s cut, with abstract cut marks, the more obscure the final image and it’s may not be as effective at communicating the initial idea as originally intended. But this is the same with traditional drawing, once a subject is stylised to a point where it’s no longer recognisable, it loses its ability to convey a message. In Beth Hoeckel’s work (Fig. 1), you can see there are snippets of photographs containing open mouths all with lipstick and a telephone, this was an editorial piece to go along with a piece of writing about pre-recorded mobile phone voices having female voices due to sexism. The lips are signifiers and when the viewer looks, it creates connotations to the female voice, especially when paired with the telephone in the corner. In the use of these signifiers and using the preconceived connotations that come attached, it’s easy to communicate a message effectively, and as long as the cut marks still allow the elements to be recognisable - it tends to be less ambiguous than the traditional sense of drawing where if it’s done gesturally, it’s difficult to be certain what exactly the drawn element is meant to represent. So from this can deduce that collage is just as effective, if not more effective at communicating a message as traditional drawing through the use of signifiers within the content of the collage.

Discovery: Exploration, attempting to make sense of the world by using the process of drawing. When drawing we not only use the conscious mind but we delve into our subconsciousness and this is revealed through the act of drawing. It is how we figure things out visually, a way of learning, of creating a form from the unknown, whether it be discovering the subconscious mind through doodling or tackling a subject’s form and are discovering how it is constructed through drawing. There is a view that drawing can’t be seen in a work in itself as it’s preparatory work, and there is truth to this not in the fact that it can’t be seen in its own right, but it’s used as a tool for visually understanding a subject. It’s a process,

“through the act of drawing we are not only left a trace of the physical art but the trace of the thinking process, as images or marks are made manifest, and evidently expose decisions, indecisions and indiscretions of this thinking ‘out loud’.” (Taylor, 2008, p10) This notion of visual discovery is obvious in Sergei Sviatchenko’s images (Fig. 3) you can see him pulling images out of context, cutting out two abstract shapes. The decision making even within this very simple assemblage, the different possibilities of composition, but they line up exactly the way he wants that the lines run into each other creating a much more fluid form. In Fig. 4 it’s a similar approach except he’s no longer cutting completely random shapes - instead he’s following the form of the torso in suit but that has been cut with jarring straight lines on one side as opposed to the smooth, definite edge where he’s followed the edge of the suit on the other. He has then cut an oval containing a pair of lips and has put this at an angle perpendicular to where the torso’s head would have sat. This composition and its visual effectiveness isn’t a stroke of luck. Collage allows for elements to be picked up and moved and this process in finding the perfect composition is just as much drawing as exploring a page with the tip of a pencil. In Fig. 5 you can see Sviatchenko has cut an eye and what seems to be the top of a poncho that he’s crudely lopped off the bottom of. You can see where he has then continued almost resembling the mirroring shoulder, but at a disjointed angle, this is done with brown paint in one quick take as the liquid becomes less and less to the point of being done in a dry brush by the end of the line. This creates a much more fluid composition between what would have been two quite distinct elements that didn’t engage with each other. The line is gestural as it selects and fills in in one sweeping action, thought went into it, but it was still appears to have been done with speed to try and capture this idea before it disappears as the piece changes in the process.

The act of drawing makes possible the magical identity between thought and action because to draw is the quickest medium and can therefore protect the intensity of thought. To draw is never a transcription of thought (in the sense of writing) but rather a formulation or elaboration of the thought itself at the very moment it translates itself into an image

(Fisher, 2003, p223)

Andrea D’Aquino’s work (Fig. 6) explores the collage drawing process in a different way - she incorporates areas of paper that she has created textures by painting, then cutting them to get the shape she demands. She either has made large banks of these textured surfaces and has them prepared so as that she can cut into the right texture for the shape she needs and assemble the pieces or she creates fresh ones to suit the image that she is trying to form, in doing so she has much more of an influence on how the image feels, as opposed to using found imagery where although the artist has control they never have the same level of it as when the pieces originate from themselves. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing as the process of taking something out of context is almost like collaborating with another artist whilst still having creative control, so it takes them outside of the comfort zone and injects in a contrast which is a very visually effective tool (Fig. 7) . This process of creating pages of textures allows her the opportunity to create visually appropriate textures and for to understand more of what she is creating rather than it be externally influenced by the constraints of found imagery. In the process she is discovering just how far she can push collage and this could be said to be visually exploring the medium and the drawing process.

Marking our existence: Not in the direct sense of literally making marks on a page, but in the impulsive act of doing so, making a mark in space and time, something with a purpose to acknowledge the fact that you made it. As humans we seek some form of acknowledgment of our being and in the process of recording the fact that we were here. In this place, at this time, you happened, you altered, you changed the world, and in doing so you have modified the environment in some shape or form, whether this be blatantly obvious by writing your name on the side of the wall or whether it’s as subtle as a small mark on a piece of paper that gets thrown away. Either way it’s done in the hope of recognition, whether it be public or as a private thought as in most cases of the many pages of private sketchbooks of artists that later get discovered. It’s a means of interconnecting us with our ancestors, marking not only a surface in space and time, but marking our activity and presence. In Craig Atkinson’s sketchbooks (Fig. 8) it’s possible to witness this mark making - he, like many artists, uses a sketchbook to record things, things he sees, a series of events and thoughts. This was at one point a brand new notebook, and he’s altered it, modified it in such a way to create a personal visual record. In doing so he’s claimed it as his own, the drawings on the pages have a naive quality to them, he’s created these black characters that are existing purely in between the pages, using a variety of different techniques; collaging pieces of coloured paper, black line drawings that have been painted over and the ink characters. The fact he paints over them suggests a personal connection to it - although this is in a private journal, he still has sections that himself doesn’t want to see, he has selected a section that he doesn’t even want to look at - and replace with a section of something new. In an interview he says, “I like spontaneity and I like making quick decisions,” (Aktinson, 2014) and this comes across in these drawings, you can see the pace that he works, how it is crude but meaningful- how in these marks he’s merged his impulsive decisions into the drawing. In doing so he’s injected his personality into the book and expressed himself in his environment, he’s engaging with the world by allowing himself to intrinsically connect to the surrounding environment.

CAse study: Lastly; One of the most prominent Collage artists, Hannah Höch, Collage was popularised in the Dada movement due to its versatility and the recent explosion of printed material. The Dada movement being a protest movement, protesting the ongoing first world war by making a mockery of the stupidity of nationalistic attitudes that existed, often using well known figures, that would have been in context at the time (Fig.10). Looking back upon this, they’ve lost their potency, as the figures have lost their context due to time that has passed, but at the time this way of communicating the ideas through the crude cutting as she selected sections of images and pasted them together - creating a sense of urgency to her message. The work of Hannah Höch and a lot of other Dadaists in mocking the war, was a way of being acknowledged - they could see the war in it’s absurdity and pointlessness and wanted to be seen, to be remembered to have expostulated to the unnecessary waste of life. They used their images as a way of protesting it instead of letting it happen, and in doing so have made a mark on the world, and will be remembered for doing so. In the way she chose her selections she drew with her scissors as she defined the sections of photographs, Höch set parameters of her drawing through where she cut, the cut being the drawing. Cutting is the essential prerequisite for the creation of a photomontage, for the method is to cut parts out of what was a complete picture and reassemble them to create something new, different and strange (Roters, 1985, p67) The cut is described as being “the most radicle, for it entails destroying an existing context.” (Roters, 1985, p67) This is the second decision made after the choice of image used. Collage is a form of drawing as each of these cuts, they are lines, they have created these boundaries, and in the traditional sense of drawing it’s delineation through the use of spaces separated by lines, so if we look at regions of a photo, more specifically the edges, this is drawing, where the knife or scissors separates one part from another in creating borders of empty space, and instead of the inside of it being empty like in a line drawing, it is filled with an already filled surface; the space filled with a photographic record of the real world. In a Dada catalogue, Wieland Herzfelde describes its benefits “artists used to spend endless time, love and effort on painting a body, a flower, a hat or a shadow and so on, but we only need pick up the scissors and cut out what we need from painting or photographs of all these things,” (Adriani, 1985, p24) in doing so saving time, and still capturing an accurate depiction of a subject the only precondition being in possession of a suitable photograph. It’s already established that Höch used collage as not only a means of mark making and communication, but to get to a point where she could use it efficiently in communicating her message, she was experimenting and using it as a form of discovery,

“It is an inexhaustible source and the most important prerequisite for using it is to be uninhabited, in the sense of not burdened with preconceived ideas” (Krieger, 1985, p90) “If we want to press this photo material into new creations we must prepare ourselves for a voyage of discovery - we must remain open to the delights of the coincidental, for here, more than anywhere else, it will act as a constant stimulus on our imagination,” (Krieger, 1985, p90), This can be observed in Fig.12 where you can see that the image isn’t as clearly defined as before, where everything seemed a lot more carefully placed - in this, you can see Höch creating a form out of the snippets and it has a more playful feel to it as she decides how the form builds upon itself. Looking at Apollinaire’s remark that “You may paint with whatever material you please, with pipes, postage stamps, postcards or playing cards, candelabra, pieces of oil cloth, collars, painted paper, newspapers.” (Apollinaire, 1968, p232) And knowing that if you can paint with it, you can draw with it - collage is a form of drawing, and Hannah Hoch has used it effectively as a drawing tool “through the use of inventiveness of her combinations in creating new worlds of form and meaning from fragments of the most banal material.” (Thomas, 1985, p80) In comparing each of the purposes of drawing to collage, my conclusion is that collage is a form of drawing and provides possibilities that drawing struggles to, like engaging scenes from the real world by means of photography to the hand drawn and it provides an effective way for each to engage with each other.

Beth Hoeckel

Fig. 1

Fig. 2

Sergei Sviatchenko

Fig. 3

Fig. 4

Fig. 5

Andrea D’Aquino

Fig. 6

Fig. 7

Sergei Sviatchenko

Fig. 8

Fig. 9

Hannah Hoch

Fig. 10

Fig. 11

Fig. 12.

You may paint with whatever material you please, with pipes, postage stamps, postcards or playing cards, candelabra, pieces of oil cloth, collars, painted paper, newspapers.

Collage as drawing

You may paint with whatever material you please, with pipes, postage stamps, postcards or playing cards, candelabra, pieces of oil cloth, collars, painted paper, newspapers.

BIBLIOGRAPHY: Adriani G, Biography 1985 in Adriani G, 1985,Hannah Höch, Stuttgart, Dr. Cantz’sche Druckerei Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt pp863 Apollinaire G , Cubist Painters, 1913 In Chipp, H: 1968 , Theories of modern Art : London, University of California Press pp220248 Berger J, 2005, Berger On Drawing, Aghabullogue, Occasional Press. Dexter E, 2005, Vitamin D, London ,Phaidon press Limited Fisher J, On drawing, 2003, In Zegher D, The Stage of Drawing: Gesture and Act, 2003, Belgium, Tate Publishing, pp217-231 Krieger P, Paradox and Poetry in Hannah Höch’s Collages, 1985 In Adriani G, 1985 ,Hannah Höch, Stuttgart, Dr. Cantz’sche Druckerei Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt pp64-69 Newman A, Conversation: Avis Newman/Catherine de Zegher, 2003, In Zegher D, The Stage of Drawing: Gesture and Act, Belgium, Tate Publishing, pp 67-93, 165-178, 231-240 Roters E, Pictorial Symbolism, 1985 In Adriani G, 1985 ,Hannah Höch, Stuttgart, Dr. Cantz’sche Druckerei Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt pp64-69 Taylor A Re: positioning drawing 2008, In Garner S, 2008, Writing on Drawing, UK, Intellect Books pp9-11 Thomas K, the “good girl who works hard” The Feminist Question - Mark, 1985 In Adriani G, 1985 ,Hannah Höch, Stuttgart, Dr. Cantz’sche Druckerei Stuttgart-Bad Cannstatt pp70-83

Beth Hockel Fig1: Fig2: Sergei Sviatchenko Fig3:,-2013,-ii Fig4:,-2008 Fig5:,-2016 Andrea D’Aquino Fig6: Fig7: Craig Atkinson Fig8: Fig9: Hannah Höch Fig10: Fig11: Fig12:

IMAGE references

Collage as Drawing  

An illustrated essay discussing collage as a form of drawing.

Collage as Drawing  

An illustrated essay discussing collage as a form of drawing.