Presenting brand new work, the Manchester-based artist Sarah Randles talks in-depth about her love of collage, what inspires her, and ways in which lockdown has affected her practice.
Kim: At what point did you discover and adopt collage into your practice?
Sarah: During university I was using a lot of found objects in my work, mainly from nature and things I found in the streets where I lived, either drawing from them or using them directly within my work. Then I saw an exhibition in Madrid, it was a collection of surrealist artworks, in particular Max Ernst’s and Hannah Höch collages. All the different elements of that exhibition literally blew me away. Looking back, that trip was a pivotal moment in how I approached making work. I saw that collage as a medium was just as effective in conveying a message as drawing. From that point on, collage became the forefront of my practice, I started to make mock-up collages, which I used as a prerequisite for a drawing. I began to combine the objects I was finding and collecting with my drawing and collages. This process eventually progressed into the kind of collages I make today.
Kim: What draws you to collage as a medium?
Sarah: I love a good rummage through an antique market or vintage shop and a few years back I picked up a job lot of old vintage cabinet cards and found them so interesting. I just knew I had to find a way to use them in my work. My original intent was to draw on them but as I was playing around in my studio I lay a pair of crab claws I found at the beach over one of the photographs and it completely changed the way I made work. It was like all the objects that I had been collecting for so long finally had a purpose. That was the beginning of my Assemblages series.
I enjoy the immediacy of collage, for me, it is so different from the labor-intensive drawings I make, which makes it fun and exciting to work on. I like how I never really know how a collage will turn out. A lot of it is chance and play, and realising when to commit and actually stick it down!
Kim: Pick a piece from your latest series of work and talk us through its premise...
Sarah: Dodson is my favourite piece of new work on Broth. The cigarette cards were randomly bought at the Barras Market in Glasgow. I bought quite a few, not really knowing how I would use them.
This piece of work came about by accident, like a lot of my work. I still can’t believe how well the image fits together, the posture and the little detail of the zip continuing into the chain is perfect. These collages explore themes around gender roles and our perceptions of others. I deliberately titled them by their surname as to not assign them a specific gender. As soon as this image came together, so many thoughts emerged for me around who this person might be and how we can all too easily judge someone based on their appearance.
Kim: Who and what are your main sources of inspiration?
Sarah: I am massively inspired by Dada and Surrealist ideas and ways of working. The juxtaposition and dreamlike qualities that blend fantasy and the unfamiliar with reality have always fascinated me. Their movement is something I would have loved to have been a part of. Hannah Höch and Louise Bourgeois are women whose work has always resonated with me.
For me, inspiration can come from anywhere really. The starting point is the cabinet cards but ideas can come from a walk in the park, a conversation, current events. Most of the ephemera I use within my work are found at markets or antique shops. I generally buy something I find interesting without having a particular use for it, it could be sat on my desk for years before it finds its way into one of my collages. This ‘hunt’ for material becomes just as important as the final image, it’s like completing a jigsaw puzzle.
Kim: If money was no object and you could have any artwork on your wall, what would it be and why?
Sarah: Good question. There are so many things I would love to own if money was no object!
I would love to own a Chapman Brothers etching or a John Stezaker collage. As a younger Tracey Emin obsessed teen, I would still love to own literally anything she’s made. A Hannah Hoch collage would be a great addition to my living room. Maybe a Yayoi Kusama pumpkin in the garden...I could go on.
Kim: As you emerge from life in lockdown, do you feel enlightened? Have you learnt anything new about yourself or your practice?
Sarah: I’ve been really grateful to have so much time to think about my practice and to make new work. I guess I’ve learnt to slow down and to not put too much pressure on myself. With my work, I’ve used it as an opportunity to experiment and revisit techniques and ways of working that I’ve not used for a while. For example, I have been drawing from some of my old collages, which I then turn into mono-prints. Each process becomes more abstract, moving further and further away from the original. I’m hoping to continue with this as life returns to normal and see where it takes me.
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