Unaltered pictures

Seeking new material for collages I sometimes come across images that need no alteration at all, if, when they are taken from their context, they will be amusing or they will make you think.

This picture, for instance, suggests ideas about art. It could be a critique of art in general – there’s nothing in it; there’s nothing to see. People who reckon there’s value and merit in art are, perhaps this picture suggests, deluding themselves. Or it could be a lot more charitable. It could mean: never mind what is there in the art, what counts is what happens inside your head when you look at it. I prefer this reading. Perhaps the picture is less about art than about our need for art. Human or canine, we seek meaning and communication all the time.

The picture reminds me of the final sequence in Wim Wenders’ film Kings of the Road. We see a cinema frontage with the advertisement for the features on show, and these are Blank Screen Pictures. Yet people are still there in the auditorium watching an illuminated blank screen. Here again, there is ambiguity. Is Wenders suggesting that modern cinema is vacuous, but people still flock to see it? Or is he suggesting that as a creator he has nothing more to say (a bit like Marcello Mastroianni in Eight and a Half: niente a dire, according to his critics) for the moment? Either way, this photo I took in Penang, outside an old cinema, is a reference to Wenders’ final sequence.

Minimalism has its appeal, goodness knows, but this is going a bit far.

The girl and dog come from an old children’s book, of course, and it is an invitation for the reader to draw in the pictures themselves. Luckily for me, no previous owner of the book had been tempted to do so. I saw it, noted that the book was £5, went away, but had to return next day to buy it, because this picture is the ultimate picture for me as a collageur, collagiste, collage-maker, or, as Stephen Leacock would surely have put it, collage boy. It is the ultimate picture because it is about meaning in images. What we collage boys do is alter meanings. We produce new fun by playing with the relationship between viewer and picture. And this girl and dog picture sums that all up very nicely.

Here is another picture that expresses an enduring truth about me:

I was tidying up the hoarded resources in my office prior to retiring. Some required a bit of work, in that I had to rip the pages out of their spiral bindings so that no metal would go into the paper recycling bin. As I was doing this with an old photocopy master book for Primary Geography, this image challenged me. We must all recognise our weaknesses, and so do I, so this picture would also do as an ultimate image for the present writer.

The next image that I would not care to alter but which I need to keep, is about modern shopping malls, the celebrity culture, daytime TV, liver, and contemporary pop music.

And we end with some pictures intended to help us with essential everyday processes with which we may be finding some difficulties.

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