Collage at the Beginning

Years ago, in her book on abstraction, Briony Fer suggested that collage was at the origin of the practice. I didn’t know what importance to attach to that idea, but I liked it. Her examples were collages by the Russian avant-gardist Olga Rozanova, so she was talking about a germinal moment in the history of abstraction, and the resemblance of those coloured patches to the planes of Malevich was striking.

Olga Rozanova, from the series Universal War

Today the great collage artist is Frank Stella, and his work has very many filiations with early abstraction—something for an art historian to deal with. But what’s interesting to think about is how certain paintings might as well be collages—and it would also be interesting to try to define exactly which kinds they are. My own approach is experimental not theoretical—shifting back and forth between painting and collage is the way I think about it.

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