This talk was part of the series of events on the theme ‘Borderlands: collage into painting’ organised by Painting Research at Wimbledon. Ian Monroe approached the subject of collage by considering edges: the places where one thing end and the next begins.
He illustrated the difficulty of determining this by considering where we might think we end: is our body our boundary? or would we include our job, our family, our friends, memories or images of us …? An argument could be made for the inclusion of all or any of these in our identity. He talked about collage as a situation where the edges of things butt up against each other, or leave an imprint on each other, but don’t actually merge. In fact objects may resist each other at the edge.
He linked this resistance with the sense of unease that humans feel when they see animals combined: the mythic chimera or the creations of Photoshop – most horrifically a shark/horse hybrid which I find quite scary. Monroe would argue, I think, that it is precisely this which makes us think more about the nature of difference and what it means when it is eroded or consumed. There is a similar unease created by the merger of humans with machines or technology, although new generations of e.g. prosthetic limbs offer super-human powers.
He used the infinity pool as an example of another kind of edge: ‘tantalisingly real yet ungraspable’. The fantastic idea of infinity can only be maintained if we do not approach the edge, which will inevitably turn out to be disappointingly prosaic. While the opposite of the resistant edge is camouflage: ‘a response to the notion of difference in its most literal form’, here illustrated by the pacific spotted scorpion fish. Either way, it’s the edges that are the most active part of the object or image.
This thought resonated with me because it links to my thinking about ways of using imagery to create backgrounds for some of my ink drawings: although I am still working on the methods, what is more tricky to negotiate is the edge.