by Laura Honse
Collage has always been a form of creativity that has interested me for its easy spontaneity, chance associations of disparate visual elements and contextual disruptions, a wide variety of reference and juxtaposition possibilities, plus the added attraction of being able to use recycled materials. From the French word "coller", "to glue", it is a technique where artwork is made from an assemblage of different forms thereby creating a new whole. Although the origins of some form of collage go back hundreds of years, it made a dramatic reappearance as a modern art form in the early 20th century when the term was coined by both Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso. During this period, the Cubists and Surrealists made extensive use of collage. Collages may include magazine/book images, text, found objects, wood, paint, ribbons, photographs and many other items glued to paper, canvas or wood. Today they tend to be done digitally and seamlessly, but for me that loses the texture and three dimensionality so interesting in original collage methods.
In 2009, I began a 16 meter wall collage in a tunnel outside of my gallery in Hamburg, Germany. I worked on it for one year, even in the dead of winter. Sometimes it was vandalized by the Turkish or gypsies in my neighborhood, but this only added to the collage. I used photographs I had taken, personal correspondence, magazine, vintage newspaper, school books, comics, art books, music sheets, love letters, stickers, stamps, stencils, matchbooks, packaging, dried flowers, Jehovah's Witnesses propaganda... just about anything I could get my hands on. I also used found objects like a tiny plastic bag used for the sale of pot with a marijuana leaf stamped on it, a cigarette box, a driver's license, packaging from birth control, a packaged condom, a child's handwriting exercise... This wall collage was used in background scenes for two German movies and often for fashion shoots. One time two Italians came with an anti-Berlusconi poster they wanted to put up. This was an action happening worldwide in main cities of various countries. I often invited people viewing my collage to add something if they desired, whatever they had in their wallet or purse. Sometimes I arrived at the gallery to find that someone had added something or written something while I was gone. Unfortunately, at the end of 2010, I had to close the gallery because the building was going to be renovated. My collage wall eventually got destroyed.
My next big collage project was called "3D Life Collage" in which I laid out various memorabilia pertaining to my life and photographed it on my bed or a table. This project took place as I was packing to leave Germany and relocate to Mexico. It includes an expired passport of mine, correspondence dating back from when I was a teenager, Brazilian money from my childhood spent in Brazil, a black wax voodoo pussy from Brazil, postcards, paintings and drawings of mine, paper masks, family photographs, a folded dollar bill, packaging, ribbons, love letters, a plastic Superman. It is a condensed history of my life using what has survived my many relocations to various countries.
Recently, I have started a new series of collage. Very minimal. It is hard to come by material here. In Germany I could find old magazines & books thrown out on the sidewalk. Collage, like other creative processes, is relaxing and brings endless uplifting moments when images suddenly fall into place and clash in a surprising, unexpected way that takes one's breath away. Collage works with the subconscious, delving deep inside to conjure surrealist dreamscapes, allowing for chance and accidental happening in the process of creating. A pair of scissors, some magazine images or other material, and a surface to glue on is all it takes. And out of such simple ingredients an amazing work of art is just around the corner.
Laura Honse was born in the US and raised overseas in Brasil, Uruguay, Australia and New Zealand. She received a BFA from the Rhode Island School of Design and then moved to Germany, where she lived and worked for twenty years. Besides collage, she works at her photography and makes necklaces out of hand-painted fabric. She currently resides in San Miguel de Allende.
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