Collage is making a comeback. Although it could be argued that since the art form was introduced by the Cubists at the turn of the 20th century, it has never truly gone away. Most art movements have flirted with the technique and examples can be found in the output of the Dadaist, Surrealists, Pop Artists (both in the USA and UK) and of course Lee Krasner famously cut up and reassembled her own paintings to create new pieces of self-generated, collage based art.
Collage has spawned its own derivatives in the form of the craft based discipline Decoupage, Photomontage and more recently, Digital Collage. There is something intensely fascinating about the juxtaposing of imagery that has artists, designers and photographers returning to the medium to rework its potential.
One of the most recent practitioners is Sammy Slabbinck who seems to have the ability to evoke humour and horror in his work. For example, there is something deeply disturbing about the image of the family enjoying a meal consisting of a bowl of swimmers. Slabbinck’s use of colour saturation, stylised composition and a family from a 1950’s advertisement all contribute towards the unnatural atmosphere in this piece. The swimmers are unaware of their plight, the family unconcerned with the contents of the bowls; the effect is a powerful visual comment on contemporary consumerism.
At the other end of the spectrum, we have a wrestling team comprising of the most iconic musicians from the last 50 years; Bowie, Lennon, Dylan et al are managed by a beaming Frank Sinatra while Elvis looks on. Overall, the effect of the composition is humorous; particularly the facial expressions of Leonard Cohen and Mick Jagger. However, on closer inspection we become aware of the individual characters and deduce something of their personalities; Cohen is morose, Bowie introspective, Morrison pouts and poses while Lennon broods and Dylan appears aloof. Taken individually each artist is revered; together their aura is diminished as we perceive how they relate to each other and most importantly, with us, their audience.
Slabbinck’s work is visually intriguing and frequently thought provoking. More examples of his imagery can be accessed through his Facebook page by following the link at the bottom of this page.
We took the opportunity to ask this innovative artists a few questions about his approach to his work.
How do you approach sourcing materials for your collage work?
My main source for images is my collection of vintage magazines ranging from the 1950s up to the 1970s. I also have many books from that era, covering various topics like travel, nature, science etc. Mostly I find them at flea markets and second hand shops.
How important are traditional techniques in your process?
I like to work with different techniques. Some of my works are constructed digitally because it gives you more freedom to scale and arrange elements.
Sometimes you have an idea that’s not possible to create with only paper. But I always start from found pictures.
Working with only paper and knife is far more difficult but also more rewarding when you make different images work together to make a new story, a new image. I really like switching between the traditional method and the new digital way of creating.
Do you consider yourself an artist, craftsperson or designer; or perhaps a combination of all three? If so, how do you balance these elements?
The label one gets I don’t really find that important anymore. I create stuff that’s the most important for me. It’s up to others to form their opinions and decide whether they like what I do or not. You get positive comments and sometimes I get criticised, it’s all part of the game I guess.
Can you give us an insight into the practitioners who have influenced you and your work?
From an early age I was always attracted to Pop art. It felt and looked like Rock and Roll on canvas. No restrictions, no rules and working with everyday materials. Artists like Warhol , Rauschenberg, Oldenburg have all inspired me. Also the Russian avant-garde scene and the Dada movement with artists like Kurt Schwitters, Jean Arp and Man Ray were a real eye opener the me.
Can you give us examples of items from history that inspire your work.
I think the inspiration doesn’t really come from one or 2 items but more from the overall design and the way objects and graphics were shaped over the years. Every decade had its own look and we’ve come up to a point that we can process all these different styles. I think that’s why collaging has again become popular over the years. All these images that are at hand can be recycled. It doesn’t make coming up with something new easier but it sure provides us with a challenge.