Creating Surreal and Retro-Futuristic Worlds
Using old school scissors and glue, Karen creates surreal and retro-futuristic worlds using vintage magazines and books found at thrift stores and markets. She loves the process of juxtaposing 2 or more disparate images and transforming them into impossible landscapes that feel almost real. Architecture, nature, space and time are common elements within her visual dialogue. Obsessed with colour and geometry, Karen attempts to create a playful and inspiring narrative within her art.
Who influences you graphically?
It’s more of a what than a who! I’m a material driven artist so it hugely depends on the found materials at the time. I’m inspired by 20th century architecture, by greats such as Frank Lloyd Wright and Frank Gehry, German Expressionism, Surrealist art and avante garde cinema of the 1950’s and 1960’s. I am also drawn to the color palette and quality of vintage photography and advertising.
How do you form your archive of images for the collages? Is there a specific criteria? Do you collect and then assemble or is it a continuous back and forth project?
I usually collect a stack of magazines and books from a day treasure hunting and sort through, flagging images that I’m attracted to or know will work for me. Some I immediately cut out and put aside for use in the next week. Others turn into collages that day.
I try to sort my images into categories such as backgrounds, space, people, flowers, mountains, structures, and underwater, and they each have a drawer. I also might collate them by predominant color such as pink, blue and green. My magazines are sorted together by publication. I have over 350 vintage National Geographic magazines that are kept in chronological order and have an index which really helps if I am looking for something specific like gemstones or shells.
To what extent is the art of collage as constructing a new narrative out of ‘old’ fragments relative in a society so oversaturated by information?
Central to my art is the reclaiming images of the past, recycling and transforming them into art that is relevant and appreciated today. I love how two or more seemingly disparate images from different publications, eras and contexts can be juxtaposed to form a new narrative and a surreal or retro-futuristic landscape. Some people ask me “How can you cut up that beautiful old magazine?” but it’s previous owner had stored it in a dusty garage, ignoring it, so I feel as if I am resuscitating it, breathing new life into something that was neglected and forgotten.
What drives the images you create?
I find the whole process of collage very cathartic. I love the treasure hunt for material, the cutting and the creation. My creative spirit needs to be unleased on a daily basis or I don’t feel like myself! I love the feeling of being inspired by something, even if it is the colors of a sunset or a poster in a shop window, and in turn, I love my art to be inspirational to others.
To what extent has and does the format of Instagram influence the way you create?
Even though with analog collage you are often limited by the size of your original images, I am mindful of creating in the 8 x 10″ or square format that showcases my collages to their best advantage on Instagram. I really like making art in the 8 x 10″ format because of the depth I can create. Lately I’ve been designing for album cover art so it’s been about training myself to work within a square.
What would be the effect of collaging manually rather than through photoshop?
I’m an old school cut and paste artist who loves the feel of real paper and the raw, organic look of analog collages. The color palette and quality of vintage Ektachrome and Kodachrome photography is something I try to infuse into my art. However, there are some very talented digital artists who do beautiful work and there are many advantages to using photoshop such as resizing images, matching colours, layering and the endless editing capabilities which are impossible or extremely difficult for analog artists. I only have very basic photoshop skills and know that is something I will eventually have to improve upon if I wish to maintain control of my work in editorial or album cover art situations.
Have you ever thought about a three dimensional form of collage- installation?
Yes! I have been playing with the idea of making a model of a 1960s or 1970s house, collaged with fixtures, furnishings and people from the era. Sadly, I’m not a labour intensive, process heavy type of artist. I work quickly, very much on inspiration and gut instinct so I’m not sure I would have the patience to complete such a time consuming project, but never say never!
Karen Lynch (aka Leaf and Petal) is an Australian based paper collage artist.