Article illustration
Figures in a Landscape

Making art is often a question of adaption to circumstances such the artists' financial situation or access to a suitable working space. Previously I had worked with screen printing which ideally requires a well ventilated and spacious environment for the storage of drying prints, screens, inks and chemicals, and for the type of work I made, a darkroom. When I made this series of collages, Figures in a Landscape, my situation permitted the production of only small scale work that could be made on a kitchen table.

The scale was decided by cutting a sheet of plywood into four pieces and every piece in the series is exactly the same size. The next question was the choice of materials and I decided at the outset I didn't want to use the traditional collaging technique of printed matter, scissors and glue; instead I chose materials that were flat, inexpensive, easy to procure and straightforward to work with, i.e. requiring only strong scissors, a cutting knife and a means of fastening the shapes to the plywood base.

There was another important reason for these unconventional materials; they were made in an industrial space which was used as a shared studio, the majority of artists were sculptors and a clean working environment was impossible. Moreover, I felt it was important that the style of work I made was in harmony with the art produced by the artists who worked around me; even though I didn't make sculpture, I wanted the series to have some of those qualities.

Because I had decided to produce a series, the next problem was identifying a unifying theme and this question was resolved organically, I simply began by pasting coloured strips of paper to form a background pattern with no discernable purpose, over which I would place a figure. The figure could be a cutout, fashioned from metal or a recycled print and the effect was an abstracted fusion of the two elements, delivering a semi-coherent visual logic.

This strategy came from an interest in the type of broken images commonly seen in a badly tuned analogue TV or a videotape glitch. This breakdown held not only a visual interest, it became a metaphor for the themes I had started to explore, such as climate catastrophe, social discord and the disorientating effects of the media landscape.

Fusing the figures with their background simulated another idea I was interested in; people produce their environment, and in turn the environment moulds those people's lives in a relentless feedback loop. These are people imprisoned in a miasma they don't fully comprehend.

Unfortunately I never took the opportunity to exhibit the entire series but I contributed some of these collages to group shows. The people who commented on the work were artists who had no problem reading what they saw but I suspect those outside the art world would be understandably perplexed.