Born out of the industrial revolution, mass communication and technology, collage is a rich medium that reassembles fragments of modern life into new representations of the world. Originally used by Picasso, Braque, the Dadaists and Surrealists, collage as an art form came to prominence in the 20th century, and now, in the 21st century, there have been quantum evolutions made by artists using collected objects, images, paint and other media in the deconstruction and construction of images that often provoke surreal, dystopian representations that help free the viewer’s mind from the social and political constraints and definitions usually attached by others to what we see.Therefore it can break the rules of perception and invite new meaning. It can be at the same time a confusing and liberating experience, the substance of what the best art is about. In that sense, collage is a form of freedom, as French artist Smith Smith says, “freedom of thought.” Smith Smith says he approaches his work without any intellectual concept, liberating his mind to freely interact with his medium.
The Beauty Of The Absurd, Surrealism and Provocation
Smith Smith tells SFsthetik, “The first bits of paper that I collected and glued together were pictures of my idols; Kurt Cobain, Jim Morrison, Jimi Hendrix. I was 14 and I absolutely did not want to lose those pictures of them so I started to assemble them religiously. Twenty years later I continue, becoming a means of expression, a playground for my life. I appreciate the beauty of the absurd, humor, surrealism and provocation. I love working in the construction as well as the deconstruction of an image.” He says he doesn’t have a specific technique, and sometimes he starts out not knowing where he wants to go. “Sometimes I listen to what the images tell, sometimes I cut hundreds of bits of paper and other times of the sets. But at the end of the story, in both form and content, collage = freedom of thought.”
Smith Smith is a multi-talented artist; a musician, a photographer and collage artist. Asked about the themes of his work, Smith Smith says, “I don’t impose myself. I forbid myself, if anything. What I often see in my collages is humor, satire, irony, provocation …Classicism, and death—these are the themes that emerge. Also, simplicity! These are the things that inspire me.”
Collage as Subversion of Image
What about the unique ability of collage artists to deconstruct images and put them together in new ways?
“I think that the art of collage can have enormous power! In my view, it’s not such a great thing to live in our modern society—we are too much in the thrall of Image. The world no longer examines its problems, it merely reacts when a shocking picture emerges from those problems. That is the true absurdity. The power of collage is that it subverts Image. When the image is converted from its intended form, it is possible to change the substance of the idea—the original message it sent to the public, vanished! The themes I mentioned before can be more or less prevalent, depending on my mood.”
“That is the starting point from which I choose and pin my photographic elements. Of course, collage can be a great way to express abstraction. But I find in it much more powerful virtues. Collage can be used not just to tell stories or distort reality, it can also denounce, it can condemn, it can raise awareness and spark emotions. Finally, I would say that we should not believe everything we see! My collage work is a good example of this.”
The essence of his collage work guides the viewer towards the reflection of personal sensations. His art is a work of analysis in itself, as he finds within shapes and images a universality, by not controlling his process.
Smith Smith also collaborates with other collage artists, including Eugenia Loli, Erin Case, Timwnas and Walter Paganuzzi. A collaboration between Alain Vaissiere and Smith Smith opens December 4th at Maecene Arts in Brive, France.
For more about the artist, please visit Maecene Arts and these other links: