A Collage Paints a Thousand Words A Collage Paints a Thousand Words

Reading into collage art and its portrayal of pop culture and wider society

Reading into collage art and its portrayal of pop culture and wider society

Thanks to the likes of Pablo Picasso and Peter Blake, the collage technique developed into a new style of modern art over the course of the 20th century. Ever since, artists far and wide have been making collages that represent—and reflect on—current events, trends and popular culture. Some also feature dreamlike, surreal elements which serve to challenge our perception of the world around us.

Join us as we unravel some of our artists’ most fascinating collage artworks, revealing the hidden details, intricacies and stories that lie beneath the surface...

Representing modernity: a critical stance

In French, the verb “coller” means “to stick” or “to paste”. Hence, collage refers to the result obtained from glueing small pictures together to form a unified image. One of the most common sources for these pictures is clippings from newspapers and magazines. As a whole, they make up multifaceted artworks that, by alluding to current happenings and celebrity icons, often transmit significant socio-political or -cultural messages.

Take the work of Frank Moth, for example, which comments on life in the modern world. With missing body parts and even covered faces as in Bloom, the artists’ subjects appear lost, disillusioned, fragmented. As we see it, his collage posters act as a subtle critique of the anonymous and individualistic nature of contemporary society.

While Frank Moth mostly utilises digital tools, Megan Archer has a preference for the analogue approach—working with scissors and snippets from novels and newspapers dating back to the 1970s and 80s. Nevertheless, her choice of theme is similar to that of Frank Moth; she depicts her figures in a state of disorientation, as though they were detached from the spatio-temporal context in which they find themselves. Considered symbolically, Megan Archer’s work mirrors the existential dilemma that many millennials face today; while they look back nostalgically to a mobile-phone-less childhood, they are becoming increasingly absorbed into a life ruled by technology. That being said, Megan Archer’s collages still emanate a sense of optimism, which we interpret as an acknowledgement that there is still an abundance of warmth, solidarity and compassion to be found in the world.

Following the trends: fruit-couture and Insta-mania

In addition to making observations about society, collage art is a means of representing and reaffirming the trends in fashion and design. A prime example of this would be Gretchen Röehrs' wall art, which marries line drawings of stylish women with pieces of fruit and vegetables—be it peach fruit coats or artichoke dresses. In these designs, the word “taste” takes on a dual meaning, referring both to the women’s delicate garments and the edible delights from which they are composed. What’s more, we consider this “fruit couture” to be a reference to the fashion industry’s growing predilection for all that’s natural and ecological, from sustainable production processes to the reuse and recycling of materials.

Paste in Place, aka graphic designer Rodrigo Pinheiro, also shows awareness of the trends by turning them into the leitmotif of his collages. One of the key features that we believe distinguishes his work from Gretchen Röehr’s is that he incorporates iconic imagery from both the past and the present. Placing subjects from classical paintings in modern-day settings, he captures his characters as if they were posing for Instagram. Our favourites? Van Gogh sitting back candidly in a local pub, the Girl with a Pearl Earring reclining in a bathtub, and Botticelli’s Venus sipping on an oh-so-trendy coffee-to-go.

Celebrating culture: pop art, street art and more

Everyday objects, consumer goods, mass media and advertising—since the rise of pop art in the 1950s, such elements of mass culture have become ever-more visible in collage art and design. For David Redon, art director and creative mind behind Ads Libitum, pop art and collage go hand-in-hand. Lining up the celebrities of today with the advertising materials of yesteryear, he produces retro pop art canvases and prints that portray the likes of Kanye West from an alternative, often tongue-in-cheek, perspective.

Challenging the imagination: from realism to surrealism

But not all collage art is a mirror of the world as we know it. Sometimes artists appropriate and distort aspects of reality to create parallel universes which—being both recognisable and unfamiliar to us at the same time—challenge our perception of reality.

With this variation on the collage print, the emphasis is on the surreal. And artist Mahría Coutinho shows us just that: while her flamingo frolics on a bed of clouds, a young boy rides on a magic carpet over the mountaintops. Likewise, such fantasies are central to the collages of Sofía Rood. By combining animals and dreamy motifs with opulent flora and fauna, the Portuguese artist constructs her very own visual fairytales.

Whether dark or bursting with colour, filled with scepticism or with hope, collage prints can be interpreted in countless ways. Discover their meaning for yourself by exploring our diverse collection of collage art—and find the posters that best reflect your outlook on the world…

Text: Ina Schulze

Translation: Lucy Woods