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  • Alessia Stokes

"The missing link...we will just cut and paste it!"

Japan in the 1000s, Victorians in the 1800s, Modernists of the 1900s, and well, (we don't seem to have a name for our period in history...insert your choice here) us - all have something in common, collage!

So influential is collage, that we now have yet another portmanteau to add to the ever-growing list (brangelina, affluenza, turducken, chocaholic...you get the idea). It is called "Februllage." A combo of February and Collage.



If you are like me and despite being on social media, missed it for the past three years, not to worry, we have a year to prep!


The concept is that of collage artist Rhed Fawell. She now lives and works in Edinburgh. "In 2015, Rhed founded and set up Edinburgh Collage Collective which is a non-for-profit artists community. ECC was set up to work with local and global collage artists through a process of open submission projects and collaborations." (https://www.rhed.co.uk/about/) Since it's inception in 2019, Februllage, a joint collaboration between Edinburgh Collage Collective and the Scandinavian Collage Museum has been hugely successful. "This initiate invites collage artists to make a ‘collage a day’ throughout the month of February" (https://www.edinburghcollagecollective.com). There is a daily word prompt, that is now given in 12 languages. The work and enthusiasm speaks for itself. (Have a browse through Instagram, #februallage).


How is it, that collage in its most basic form - cutting and pasting ephemera, has become this unifying art form that has crossed time, continents and languages? Let's head to 10th century Japan for some insight starting with "Chigiri-e" (Chee-gee-ree-ay).


This ancient art form was brought to Japan by Chinese Buddhist Monks in 610 AD. However, it really found a foothold in Heian period - 794 to 1185, often used along with calligraphy on handmade paper - washi paper, commonly made from mulberry bushes. "Chigiri-e involves tearing, folding and gluing coloured paper to create vivid realistic images like landscapes, or more abstract forms." The word actually means "to tear art". In some instances it is so artfully done that it more resembles a watercolour painting than a collage. What slightly differentiates chigiri-e from what we traditionally view as collage, is that collage is from "found" sources, whereas chigiri-e starts off with blank paper.




Collage made its way to Europe by the 1400s, but really took off in the Victorian period. If you thought "commercial" scrapbooking was a 2000s home shopping network idea, think again. In Victorian times scrapbooking turned into a full blown industry, not just the musings of young women in want of husbands. According to archivist Jeremy Parrett of the Manchester Metropolitan University Special Collections Museum - "Scrapbook making was a great hobby in the Victorian period. Companies saw an opportunity to make money with blank scrapbooks and ready-cut scraps." He states about the Sir Harry Page collection: "some more interesting ones which are very much more clearly the product of one person and combine manuscript, sketches, material cut from periodicals, jokes, and pictures from fashion magazines.”


Handmade Valentine cards were a paper courtship resembling the mating rituals of some of David Attenborough's "Birds of Paradise". So much so that, "many Victorian era valentines were “adorned with hearts, cupids, flowers, angels, swains, and nymphs—emissaries of love—and numerous handmade missives. Rather than purchase a ready-made valentine, Victorian men and women often assembled original valentines from materials purchased at a stationer’s shop” and then added tender verses. (Dr. Catherine Golden, Posting It: The Victorian Revolution in Letter Writing) The "language of flowers" added an additional declaration, (as if nymphs were too subtle) as each flower had a meaning. After reading "Far from the Madding Crowd", one learns the "great power" a Victorian valentine card could wield...they were not to be trifled with!


By the 1900s art was turning on its head, no longer just realism and classical in style. Collage again became a means to express. The "Dada" movement, which later lead to Surrealism, was the voice. (I have included a brilliant short video that explains it if you want to know more). Collage in particular was favoured above other means. Born out of a seemingly relentless WW1, it was a means to "express their reactions to the spreading hysteria and madness of a world at war." "Throughout the 20th century, collage has been used as a tool for disruption and subversion – a way of ripping up the rulebook and creating something new from the fragments." (https://www.economist.com/1843/2019/07/24/stick-em-up-a-surprising-history-of-collage)




In our modern age of computers we regularly "cut and paste." (I wonder how the Dadaists from the WW1 era would have viewed it?) It seems that throughout the ages as humans we have collected bits and pieces. Some collections have notably more significance than others. In either case we have felt the need to reconstruct, if for pleasurable memories or emotive statements - the world around us. So next time you "cut and paste" on your computer, perhaps have slight digression into the world of collage for real. Find those old magazines under your bed that you keep telling yourself you will recycle (or from a charity shop), pull out that lonely Pritt stick from high school pencil case - grab the kitchen scissors and just start cutting and sticking! It may surprise you how cathartic it really is.


Learn more:


Picture Credits:

  1. "Disco", 2021 - Beatriz Alarcia

  2. "Portrait of Self", 2021 - Lexicon Love

  3. "Bubblegum Moon" - Barbara Harmer

  4. Victorian Scrapbook with vintage ads - Case Antiques, Lot 700

  5. Illustrated postcard. Printed in England/The Regent Publishing Co Ltd. Dumbarton Oaks Archives

  6. "Cut with the Kitchen Knife Dada Through the Last Weimar Beer-Belly Cultural Epoch of Germany", 1919 - Hannah Höch

  7. "Good Wives", 2017 - Rhed Fawell

  8. "Don't worry dear, I have also finished Tolstoy", 2021- Alessia Stokes














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