I have been working with the medium of paper collage for nearly twenty years and still haven’t exhausted all it’s possibilities. I like to make things with my fingers and for me making pictures using paper is as much a craft as an art. I use paper that is recycled from glossy magazines which has the double benefit of allowing me to read them before I cut them up. Although since I use the colour not the pictures I have developed an eye for colour, texture and shading and sometimes fail to actually look at the subject of the photographs at all.
I use my coloured paper as a sort of found object. In art this term refers to something used to make art that was actually intended for a different purpose. For me this means that the paper brings something of its own to my pictures, something I didn’t put there myself. A surprise
I use screen board, water based glue and very sharp scissors to make my pictures and have amassed a large collection of paper from fashion and interior magazines both purchased and donated. Usually I have a picture in mind and search for possible paper colours but occasionally some paper will suggest a picture to me. Sometimes I need a particular colour and flip my way through all the magazines in the newsagents and when I find what I need I will buy as many copies of the same edition as I need – much to the bemusement of the staff at the counter.
When I start a picture I sometimes draw directly onto the board but usually just collect the paper and position and reposition it until I am happy – then I stick! You can build up layers to a certain degree but don’t want the image to get too thick so will sometimes use a scalpel to remove areas before re-glueing. I also use sheets of tracing paper to draw my images and then place them over the magazine paper so I can position them perfectly for the colour and shadow before I cut.
Occasionally I use other papers if they suit my purpose. To portray one decorated palace I built the walls with a flimsy bamboo joss paper which allowed the bones to show through and the embellishment to hang almost in the air like the faniciful lace of a purdah screen. One picture contains the beautiful coat of arms cut from a ten rupee note.
But while I do use a variety of paper types and textures I have invented a rule for myself that I never use anything but paper in my work.
Henri Matisse once said that
“Much of the beauty that arises in art comes from the struggle an artist wages with his limited medium.”
This idea resonates with me and to some degree it explains why I would spend two hours building a tiny bicycle out of cut paper instead of resorting to drawing it on in pen. It is where the magic lies in my picture.