Collage started with nothing but a pair of scissors, some paper cutouts, and a glue stick. When the digital era barged in it revolutionised the art style with the help of new techniques. Now add the internet to the equation and you get artists sharing their creations with a wider international audience. The cyber world also helped artists connect with members of the art industry as well as other creators. Collage art allowed artists the previously difficult option of creating bizarre visual narratives that borrow elements from pop art, the Dada movement, surrealism as well as traditional culture.

Collage is a term derived from the French  word “coller” meaning “glue.” It was coined by both Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso at the beginning of the 20th century, when collage became a distinct part of modern art revolution and the digital art movement nowadays.

Pablo Picasso, Still Life with Chair Caning, Oil on Oil Cloth over canvas edged with rope, 29x37cm, 1912 (www.artsy.net)

In reading the definition of collage by the Concise Columbia Encyclopedia it said that collage “is a technique in art consisting of cutting and pasting natural or manufactured materials to a painted or unpainted surface”—hence, creating a work of art in this medium. The technique was initiated in 1912 when Picasso pasted a section of commercially printed oilcloth to his cubist painting, Still Life with Chair Caning. Collage elements later appeared in works by Gris, Braque, Malevich, Dove, and the futurist artists.

Although traditional collage making techniques are still in use today, contemporary artists have been embracing technology and its modern methods to create their work. Contemporary artists are now experimenting both technically and conceptually as there are many styles and techniques in collage art that are used in film, the visual arts and photography. There are also different styles in classical and modern techniques from Decoupage to Photomontage and three dimensional eCollage. Contemporary artists are even mixing techniques from both eras  to come up with innovative ways for communicating their visual narratives.

Eugenia Loli, ‘Maker’, digital collage (www.flickr.com)

What is fascinating most about digital collage is how the medium allows artists to manifest and express their subconscious world within their art. The spirit behind it is endearing and appealing in its subversive humor and imaginative beauty. It brings fantasy to real life with its strange subject matter that is evocative of a dream; how it alters perspective and scale and makes the impossible possible.

The process of creating a digital collage work is similar to having a daily art  diary. The work acts as a platform that  helps in revealing one’s emotional state and exploring one’s belief to be presented in visual form without the need for verbal communication. This along with artistic examples from art history act as a major inspirational starting point for may artists, including myself. Beginning with my endless fascination with vintage photographs, illustrations, Sci-Fi art and surrealism, to more well known names like Picasso and Magritte. Other contemporary names that inspire me include Eugenia Loli, Rafal Olbinski and Syrian artists Ayham Jabr.

Rafal Oblinski, ‘Wspomnienia z Hampton’, Inkography (digital print), 60×45 cm (www.flickr.com)

In my opinion digital collage is a therapeutic medium to use when expressing one’s opinion. It is a great way of talking to your soul and subconscious to unleash  what couldn’t be verbally communicated. It deepens your exploration of self expression and surfaces the interpretations for dreams. To me, there is something deeply meaningful in having images that are not related to one another juxtaposing and creating an entirely original work. Other therapeutic advantages include how it helps in relieving and releasing uncomfortable emotions by pasting symbolic visuals in an artistic manner. It is also cathartic how it allows the mind to bypass its own censorship to come up with innovative ideas in resolving internal conflicts.

Ayham Jabr, ‘Her the Sun’, Digital Collage (www.flickr.com)

Digital collage opened a door for artists and viewers alike to explore their deepest selves through the use of a cold and systematic medium; the computer. There is a sense of irony in that which makes it quite funny. It is almost as if digital collage is in itself a metaphor for the modern age; how symbolic images are used to communicate the deepest of human emotion through the use of a mechanical and robotic device.

Rene Magritte, Golconda, Oil on Canvas, 81x100cm, 1953 (www.renemagritte.org)

All images courtesy indicated in captions.