The Ravestijn Gallery,
“Just as one element of Krijno’s work has been deciphered, another unidentifiable component arises, forcing viewers to constantly re-evaluate their understanding of the photograph as a whole.“
Published as part of the featured project
Photography is in flux. No longer can traditional genres confine today’s image-makers; instead, snapshots are spliced, sculpted and juxtaposed, printed, paired and re-photographed. And in this fruitful environment, there’s a new school harnessing the once-quaint medium of collage. Nico Krijno, Ina Jang, and Tilo & Toni have big stories to tell, and big methods by which to tell them. With traditional photography practices ceasing to satiate the appetite of image-makers today, Maisie Skidmore examines the revival of the collage.
South African artist Nico Krijno, for one, has always felt compelled to interfere with the surface of his works – often illogical, sprawling scenes which abstract shape and form to the point of no return. “It just evolved,” he explains, “and it was definitely the internet that brought that on. I was rebelling against the amount of images people were making, and the ease and the homogeneity of everything. I had to not take images anymore, but make images.”
Making images, to Krijno, means collecting a vast array of objects – found on the streets, at dumps and in skips – and bringing them back to his studio to work with. He might paint, add clay, build sculptures out of them, and then photograph the results outside under the harsh African sunshine. It takes an impressive amalgamation of physical debris to mirror the digital debris Krijno seeks to offset.
“A lot of the work is very sculptural, and the physical act of making it is very important. I tend to make things quite hard for myself: I’ll be standing there, balancing things on top of each other, and they’ll fall over – and I might not have gotten a great one, but then a better one comes out of that.”
Nonetheless, Krijno is not of the opinion that his viewer need understand the process behind his painstakingly produced shots in order to enjoy them. In fact, he doesn’t think they should know much at all. “If people knew too much about what they're looking at, a lot of the magic would leave the work. The mystery of scale is quite important."
This, his vibrant, dynamic practice suggests, is the future of the photographic collage – it’s physically and digitally demanding, but it is also absorbing enough to disappear into entirely. “You should be constantly guessing,” he says. “It's about moods, rather than concrete ideas – about how it makes you feel.”
For New York-based Korean artist Ina Jang, photographs and sketches are similarly emotive; they provide a means by which to communicate when none of her three languages – Korean, Japanese and English – will suffice. Her journals are peppered with drawings and snapshots which bridge these gaps, she explains, and she has drawn on their potential to overcome linguistic barriers in her artwork, too.
Radiator Theatre is the most recent manifestation of this technique. Painting small three-dimensional sets, Jang discarded her customary way of working in favour of cutting out shapes instinctively. In this environment, each one seemed to assume a character – an idea that’s easy to identify in the resulting photographs.
“The initial set was built on the radiator, because that's the first place I get sunlight in my apartment,” she explains. “As the sun moved I had to move the set around, too. I felt it was like the theatre, and I was throwing a performance” Just as in her diaries, here these cut-out figures communicate ideas without words – they are actors in her own ‘radiator theatre’. Crucially, though, Jang does not think of these works as collage. Rather, they resist traditional categorisation altogether, filled with their own alternative life force.
For artistic duo Tilo & Toni, it’s precisely the tension between images that drives their practice forwards. Their approach is built on a multi-disciplinary foundation. “We use the terms remixing and sampling, rather than collage, but those techniques play a major role in our work,” they explain. “We gather material from high and low culture; from our archives, from the internet – cutting out, painting over, printing glossy images out and folding them, then rephotographing them under strong light or weird industrial light... Out of say 100 of these experiments, we’ll find the one we were looking for.”
This many-layered approach is informed by the world around us. “Images in everyday life rarely stand alone,” they elucidate. “They are usually interconnected. And working with groups of pictures reveals these important relationships.” Moreover, this new approach to collage through photography is a necessary outcome of a digital age. “With the enormous availability and omnipresence of images, coupled with faster and cheaper technology, it is obvious that this is what happens.“ We are at the mercy of the images surrounding us, Tilo & Toni explain – what their work attempts to do it simply to “take account of this state of being”.
It’s a grand aim, certainly, and a vital one in our modern, image-saturated state. And with artists such as these arming us with the tools we need to move forward, we can’t help but revel in the chaos.