Contextual research: Collage

For both my art-related and design-related ideas, I would like to explore a contemporary collage arrangement within my compositions. To have a wider understanding of collage itself, I have decided to look back upon its historical context.  I became interested in using the art style of collage when I settled upon the idea of working with the environmental issue of plastic as an invasive material in the ocean. This issue has come about not because of a few mere plastic objects floating about the sea – but because of large quantities which are wide-spread across the globe. “As many as 51 trillion microplastic particles—500 times more than stars in our galaxy—litter our seas, seriously threatening marine wildlife” (Chow, L 2017).

I began to think upon the quote “The sum of the parts is greater than the whole” regarding that every shard and object of plastic that litters our ocean is a contribution to the larger picture and story that affects the present and future of our natural world. This led me to finding the quote below from a book named Fingerprint. The Art of Using Handmade Elements in Graphic Design in the library:

“The sum of the parts is greater than the whole. Visual layering echoes the never-simple nature of life with its multiple levels, rich textures and often ragged edges. Without the participation of the pieces, no puzzle would ever be solved.” – Fingerprint.

The term ‘collage’ originates from the French word ‘coller’ meaning to stick or glue (Wallach, L, 2012). In an art context, collage has been used to describe a variety of art-making techniques that utilise found materials and existing imagery to compose new work (Sugarlift, n.d). During the 20th Century, Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque began to further define  the term ‘collage’ through their many experimental artworks, which in turn, established a new art movement known as Cubism (Wallach, L, 2012). Their work was a personal response aiming to challenge the traditional perspectives of Western Art by making new compositions which still acknowledged the flatness of the canvas, but have composed the illusionistic representation of three-dimensionality; demonstrating multiple perspectives within an artwork (Artyfactory, n.d.).

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Matisse at MoMA. Image source:

After this period, other art movements such as the Dadaists and Surrealists continued to explore facets of collage by using found objects and reassembling sculptures and images that sat outside of their original contexts. Henri Matisse is an example who utilised pieces of painted paper to make abstract compositions, as seen in the Matisse Cut-Outs Show at MoMA (Sugarlift, n.d).

Richard Hamilton, a famous pop artist broke conventions of traditional art materials and subjects used in art by re-appropriating commercial media and advertising imagery into his work (Sugarlift, n.d.). In his collage “Just what is it that makes today’s home’s so different, so appealing?”, Hamilton reflects upon a fusion of popular culture and modern technology using imagery to present a household setting overloaded with new inventions such as the woman on the telephone projected through a television (Manchester, E. 2007).

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Hamilton’s “Just what is it that makes today’s home’s so different, so appealing?” 1956.

Collage remains prominent in the 21st Century and is used by graphic designers, artists, illustrators, within the fashion, advertising and music industries in both analogue and digital formats. In the book, ‘Cut & Paste: 21st Century Collage’ written by Richard Brereton, he makes the profound comment that “collage connects the past with the present, sometimes offering a glimpse of what may be the future” (Banks, T. 2014).


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Pages from Cut & Paste: 21st Century Collage.

Reference list:

Artyfactory. (n.d.). Cubism. Retrieved from:

Banks, T. (2014, August 27). Cut & Paste: 21st Century Collage. Design Week. Retrieved from:

Chen, J. (2006) Fingerprint. The Art of Using Handmade Elements in Graphic Design. Cincinnati, Ohio. HOW books.

Chow, L. (2017, February 24). Microplastics in oceans outnumber stars in our galaxy by 500 times. Ecowatch. Retrieved from:

Manchester, E. (2007, May). Just what was it that made yesterday’s homes so different, so appealing? TATE. Retrieved from:

Sugarlift. (n.d.). ABrief History Collage. Retrieved from:

Wallach, L. (2016, November 15). A cut-down history of collage. Artspace. Retrieved from:




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