Stealing, copying, cutting, re-appropriating. / by Helen Teede

An exercise in collage for a group exhibition, 
"Hello Harare: Collaging the City"at First Floor Gallery 
by Helen Teede

In April this year, the First Floor Gallery stable of artists was asked to make collages for a group show curated by Valerie Kabov. None of us had really worked solely in the medium, and I, for one, produced some disasters before finally making some half-way decent works. Turns out, cutting and assembling found images is harder than you'd think. It forces you to be very conscious of your blatant stealing and re-appropriation of someone else's work, which in the end is what all artists do anyway, whether conscious of it or not.  The exercise reminded me of something that I discovered at art school but had sort-of forgotten about, that if you spend your life trying to come up with something entirely original, you're either delusional, or not doing your research properly.

I spent a lot of years worrying about all of my work being merely a plagiarism of somebody else's. I think a lot of artists do. It's still a concern of mine and when I'm working on something I try not to look at anybody else's work in case their influence comes through too strongly. In the same breath, I'm incapable of making work that is unaffected by the artists I admire. 

Collage sits slightly out of this realm of influence, because the sources often don’t sit within the discourse of art. Making collages has allowed me to gather images from completely incongruent places that, when seen together reflect back at me a visual language I inhabit that I wasn't properly aware of. 

So, two months down the line and after the collage exhibition has long come down, I'm still tearing out pages of every old magazine I can lay my hands on and I now have a pile of little cut images almost big enough to fill a small suitcase. They will probably sit there for years like many of my other abandoned projects and ideas, or perhaps they won't. It doesn't really matter - when you spontaneously flip through random sources and grab images on a whim, you may not end up producing anything worth sending out of the studio, but it's a useful exercise, well for me anyway. 



Garden of Dreams (i) - (ix)
Ink and Collage on Fabriano
36 x 28 cm