I’m not a fan of collage. Or frottage, or bricolage, or any form of art practice that requires the suffix “…age”. I can never get beyond the notion that it’s just cutting out pieces of paper (or rubbing paper on a surface) and sticking it with glue on what might otherwise have been a very fine drawing. And I don’t care if Picasso and Braque dabbled in collage; even the giants cannot dim my qualms.
So imagine my dismay when I found myself sitting on the timber floor at my regular Queensland College of Art class with my skirt ruching up my thighs, surrounded with clippings from magazines, newspapers, and whathaveyou. The task was to “disrupt” our images. Disrupt as in letting the cut or torn images fall onto the blank paper where they might and shuffling them around into … something, anything, whatever. Well, not quite “whatever”: the final work had to be resolved. (“Resolved” is a conversation for another time). Disrupt as in deliberately inserting unexpected, jarring, or clashing or disturbing photographic images into, or next to, or across, our own charcoal-drawn images of the life model posing before us.
Hmm, disrupt, hey?
The life model was beautiful in a fey sort of a way: fine bones; serene, composed, poised; unusually short hair cropped in an elfin, Mia-Farrow homage style. She sat on the floor in a contemplative pose. Thinking. Reflecting. I was thinking and reflecting too.
I cut out a picture of an elegant leg from a running magazine. I cut out another picture of an oversized wheel of a wheelchair, also from a running magazine (That’s odd, isn’t it? Perhaps it was from an article on Paralympics or something similar).
I placed the elegant leg on top of the leg I had drawn. I heard the teacher call out, “Think about the negative space! What’s going on in the negative space?!” I looked at the negative space on the left hand side of the sitting girl: perfect for the wheel of the wheelchair! A few lashings of charcoal radiating from the sitting girl (thinking “chiaroscuro” here); a tighter framing of the image by tidying up the edges … and there, I had it. My disrupted image: “Contemplation: Girl with wheelchair”.
How many other visual art images of beautiful girls with a wheelchair have you seen lately?