What I find interesting about the production of collage art is the very fundamental process of it; new pieces are created by combining elements of images, materials, colours and photographs (along with other art forms) that are relevant to the artist at the point of design. An entirely new interpretation of a segment of art can be formed simply by slicing, twisting and adding new features. This arguably begs the question of what matters more; the artists intent or the viewers translation? For me Emily Davis’ work is a wonderfully skilful example of this.
Graduating from Brighton University in 2013, Emily left with a BA Hons in 3D Materials Practice. At university, her final pieces consisted of beautifully delicate wooden boxes composed on Illustrator and finished using a laser cutter. However on graduating, Emily expanded on the concept of her dissertation which explored the process of collecting in regards to art. Russel Belk defines collecting as “actively, selectively and passionately acquiring and possessing things removed from the ordinary use and perceived as part of a set of non-identical objects or experiences.” This definition could be easily transferred to the process of collage – once part of a larger piece, a segment of a collage loses its individual identity and becomes a symbol within a larger narrative; this is parallel to a collectors piece in a larger collection. In her dissertation, Emily goes on further to explain that collectors often describe looking for connections between objects, sorting through them and putting them into categories, often arranging and rearranging them. Interestingly, this rationale ascribed to collecting could be fluently applied to the process of piecing together a collage.
Emily describes how for her, collage is a process which helps her to maintain a sense of control. The process is fluid and based entirely on instinct, moving from rapid ripping of pages to controlled cutting of segments and imagery. The material is then rearranged and reworked several times. Once it seems all usable elements have been called upon, the artist then turns to the ‘negative’ elements to create pieces which echo those before it. The negative space left on a page which has been cut out becomes louder than the original image; the aftermath of events in our lives have a greater impact than the events themselves. Emily describes how this process provides an almost cathartic practice. She explains how collage work does not aim to communicate tangible messages, but is more a manifestation of a personal coping mechanism against the unpredictable nature of the contemporary world.
With intentions to return to Brighton to exhibit her current work, I caught up with Emily to get a further insight into her work.
Hi Emily! We love your work at BC. Can you give our readers a bit of a background to yourself and your work?
Thank you! I was born in Paris but moved to England at the age of five. At Brighton Uni I specialised in wood work and visual research but at the time, admittedly, I didn’t take full advantage of the facilities as I’d grown tired of being in education. In your early 20’s you want to enjoy as much freedom and as little responsibility as possible! I felt physically and emotionally incapable of producing work and didn’t feel I could defend the little I was producing. So after graduating, I made a conscious decision to leave my practice behind and move to Paris to purely live, work and explore my roots. In 2015/16 the socio-political climate becoming very tense, as well as some personal turmoil, meant I suffered from severe anxiety. During this time I found myself incapable of functioning and so regained my art practice as a coping mechanism and source of comfort from anxiety. I regained control through collage.
I’m quite entranced by the empty space in your work. Is this deliberate and suggestive for anything? Or when creating your work do you not have prior set structures in mind?
Those empty spaces are so striking. They are echoes, yet they are louder than what came before them. They reflect the way events in our lives leave an imprint that tends to have more impact than the initial event. I don’t have set structures in mind when creating work, I have a pile of gathered imagery (usually spread across the floor!) and then assemble pieces together into compositions that appear quite organically as I create harmony and balance on the page.
A favourite piece of yours and why?
I have a piece called Isolation which is currently showing in Bath as part of the Bath Open Art Prize. It’s part of a larger body of work I made in Paris back in 2016 at the height of my anxiety. For me, it represents exactly how I felt at the time, its very muted and there is an overwhelming vastness.
Are you able to give any details of artists you think we should be keeping an eye on at the moment?
I stumbled on the work of Ruben Torres Llorca the other day which I absolutely love. I’m such a fan of artist Instagram pages to see what everyones up to around the world. He works in painting and mixed media; I especially like his architectural work and use of perspectives as I can relate to the way he interprets these.
Have you any exciting projects coming up that we should be looking out for?
Yes! You can follow me on Facebook and look out for collage workshops. Until the 11 June you can view Isolation at 44AD gallery in Bath as part of the Fringe Arts Bath Festival. I will also be posting information soon about upcoming exhibitions as well as a sneak peak at my first book to be published later this year!