Friday, 20 September 2013

Collage Effects (Ben Nicholson, Victor Pasmore, Marius Popa, Ksusha Miloslavskii, Albert Oehlen)

Ben Nicholson (1894-1982), along with others from the Slade School, was interested in exploring the semi sculptural qualities of collage, using Constructivist ideas. Having moved to St Ives during the war with his wife Barbara Hepworth and his 3 children, it took a while for him to adjust from city life.  He met Alfred Wallis who had been a fisherman but subsequently turned to art at the age of 70 after losing his wife. Nicholson was influenced by Wallis' primitive style, depicting boats and ships as he had remembered them when he ws at sea.

Nicholson formed a group in 1937 called the Circle along with artists and architects, including Victor Pasmore, Naum Gabo and the architect Leslie Martin.  In the early '30s he visited the studios of  Picasso, Braque, Arp, Brancusi and Mondrian, and would have seen the developments in Cubism. So it was a natural progression for him and the Circle members to consider Constructivism in more depth. Nicholson was a friend of Mondrian and his open, clean modern style undoubtedly had an affect on Nicholson's style.

In his collage work his torn paper or card gave a texture across the torn part and his abstract squares and rectangles began to almost look like a modern building.

Using low relief he was able to allow shadows to fall across the work inversely.  His sculpture also explored the ideas of faces of walls capturing light and throwing shadows across other cubic and rectangular masses, so that the play of light on monotone work became the point of interest.  These architectual qualities also followed on from  the uncluttered lines exemplified in the Art Deco style of the 1920s, except that all decoration was completely eliminated.

Relief paintings were therefore subject to lighting conditions and could produce different effects according to where the light source is placed.

Nicholson was particularly interested in the spacial depth of the work and his abstract work was an exploratory process which sought to indicate these. In this particular collage Picasso's influence can also be perceived, using newspaper doylies and other elements.

Along with Patrick Heron he was also interested in organic shapes which he explored in his "window" scenes.,550&cvt=jpeg

Victor Pasmore (1908-1998) who was an artist and architect, similarly engaged in these ideas and was also a member of the Circle. He later developed the architecture for the Apollo pavilion at Peterlee built in 1970.
So the unique partnership of art and architecture effectively evolved into the modern architecture that surrounds us today. Pasmore was in a position to offer support to Richard Hamilton by offering him a teaching post at Kings Colleg Durham, based in Newcastle.

It mustn't be forgotten that the Bauerhaus founded by Walter Gropus in Germany was operating between 1919-33, and was a major influence upon art, design and architecture in the Modernist style.  The period between the wars was a time of optimism and a time for developing new ideas.

Whilst Pasmore was also looking at geometric/cubist design in his collage, he was also drawn to relatively flat surface texture and used foil, and corrugated cardboard to eliminate any illusionist qualities. Whereas Nicholson was using monochrome for some of his work, Pasmore used the sombre colours from the local landscape that was familiar to him.

I have found it difficult to discover contemporary collage artists  who work in similar ways so decided to go on to the Saachi website to view new up and coming artists and have included Marius Popa, Albert Oehlen and  Ksusha Miloslavskii, who use collage in similar ways to Nicholson and Pasmore.  It is difficult to see people using collage in that way because things have moved on so much with digital or e-collage featuring in today's work and the subject matter is frequently figurative, political or environmental, but these are examples of their work:

From Vitamin P the only collage  artist I was able to find was Michel Majerus, but strictly speaking he using mixed media, not simply collage.

Of all the styles, I think I am interested in an eclectic view on collage.  Sometimes I might be drawn to simple shapes and colours and mainly using cut paper etc. but then there will be times when I might wish to use discarded old things in a piece of work.  I feel the field is open also to using computer generated photos and Photoshop, or art work from drawing programmes which could be incorporated into collage.  This is the direction in future, even David Hockney has discovered the drawing tablet and e-collage is becoming more and more popular 

Reference Material: Saachi Online Artists,,, Tate online:,,artworks-artists.blogspot,,,

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