During my junior year of college, I began to toy with collage. My experimentation began with two small pieces (the first two on my collage page, excluding the top image) at the end of summer 2004. I start(ed) with torn paper and introduce(d) various marks that echo(ed) the lines/shapes of the paper bits. My palette of collage has always been sparse, consisting of one or two muted tones and black or white, often incorporating newsprint or sheet music for its visual texture. The papers are very often pastel papers, which have a rough texture to make them more receptive to dry media such as charcoal that also features heavily in my collages.
What drew me to collage in drawing class and subsequent independent study my senior year, was the low risk of the medium. Almost all of the marks and mark making techniques of collage posses an impermanence and brevity uncharacteristic of painting in that whole visual areas can be in a sense obliterated in a single action and application of a large paper shape. Elmer's glue became essential to my process and I quickly became acquainted with the hydroscopic nature of most papers (later more apparent when I began to incorporate Acrylic Medium into my collage). Application of glue too liberally results in buckling of the paper. Elmer's glue is made of PVA (polyvinyl acetate) not cow or horse hooves. The glue contains water which is absorbed by the paper at the edges where I apply and in selected areas of the shape's interior, and can even cause micro-buckling at sites of minimal application, which drying mitigates. Elmer's holds very well and is archival (will not yellow/degrade the paper) and is a fine collage adhesive, not to be scoffed at as a child's craft ingredient (children often neglect or/and are oblivious to the working qualities and versatility of Elmer's glue). After application of paper shapes, further accentuation of edges/addition of shadow-like illusions follow in addition to lines of various thickness, sinuosity and transparency.
As I experimented with media and composition in collage I found a plastic eraser invaluable in creating smudged areas affording the picture depth and mediation between fore and background. The idea of erasing charcoal was novel to me but exciting in how it resulted in the ability to manipulate the carbon pigmentation on the surface. A vector of charred vines.
Erasure took on a new and broad usage in my artistic lexicon. The eraser wasn't there to obliterate evidence of mistakes. Rather it was a creative force, adding to the charcoal and pencil marks what they didn't possess independent of the eraser's coefficient of friction. The more I draw and make marks, the easier it is to see that there are no useless marks, but that all mark making is in-formative. Whether I access the information there is contingent on my willingness to plunge into thought and make myself vulnerable to in(tro)spection. The meaning of erasure is now broad and inclusive of applying large "washes" of paper to create new contained spaces that now can be tied to the whole composition. Is this not also characteristic of life? Don't we "paper over" issues, or our past? Don't we re-tell the story, our story? How do we incorporate these novel narratives into the extant experience and evidence that endures?
I found as I made collages, that they were accretions of evidence of exploration into something I still don't understand. Maybe they evince new ways of imagining space and how it relates to visual experience, bringing to mind questions of meanings of depth, and depths in meanings. Part of what interests me about making collage is the opportunity to construe the materiality differently. There is a certain teleological denial in re-purposing an object in the service of visual expression. An acceptance of the possibility of the multiplicity of meanings...of use and re-use.
J0hn Hunter Speier
Recent work, and explorations of techniques, aesthetics and poetics.