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Too Drunk To Dance: The Collages of Ryan Swanson - Notpaper

Today, we have a guest post from Marion Piper on the work of Ryan Swanson, which she kindly submitted. Please enjoy!

Text by Marion Piper, artwork by Ryan Swanson.

Far too often I stumble upon art that makes me angry - not because it's bad or incomplete, but because it lacks complexity. I'm impressed by technique but not for the sake of aesthetics - just because it looks pretty, doesn't mean it's interesting.

The current atmosphere of disembodiment appears to impose on every aspect of daily life: from the alarm clock that wakes us up in the morning, to the myriad of networks we maintain online throughout the day and well into the night. I'm not ashamed to admit I'm a slave to consumer culture but I do worry that perhaps we've come too far to disconnect completely. Body and machine are slowly fusing in a replicant-esque fashion: what will we lose as people if this continues?


Chicago-based artist and designer Ryan Swanson eloquently visualizes the background role the human body now plays in our contemporary world. His digital collages exhibit contorted figures fragmented by bright colors, lines and jagged shapes. The rules of photography don't apply here: Swanson combines elements of design and collage to reduce the body to a clothes hanger, a mere tool for hegemony.

Whilst Swanson's style is super cool, it is slightly disturbing. The fetishized, decapitated body is made subservient to consumer culture: a slave to fashion, design, art and opulence. Adorning our bodies with the generic symbols of our culture is a commonplace activity, and we're not naïve about it at all. Swanson stylizes objectivity through collage, initiating a conversation about the mass media that has pervaded critical dialogue since the Dada movement of the 1920s. This time around though it's more about the politics of the body, rather than censorship.

The gestures of the body are extended through design principles: patterns replace faces and limbs, emphasizing the polymorphic body. Rather than being didactic, Swanson points out that the pieces are already there; it just depends on the order in which you choose to arrange them. The cut-and-paste sensibility seen here overtly references the mechanics of image making: just like our lived reality, this image is constructed.

Even Condos Can Crumble (2009)

fuses digitally manipulated magazine papers and iPhone photos together in a limited color palette. The granulated greyscale form found in aestheticised magazine images replaces the fleshy pink body, removing all sense of individuality and uniqueness. The body is now another object, another element to manipulate within the image frame. Cut into pieces by tyre tracks, the female form becomes yet another surface to mark.

In other works, the muscular male torso is treated similarly - functioning as a lamp in one image, a couch in another. Clever titling and select imagery makes Swanson's work jump off of the screen - intricate AND pretty, I hope to see more of his work on gallery walls soon.

Fred One Litch - Notpaper

Fred One Litch

I'd like to introduce two artists you may know--Fred Free and Fred One Litch. After I called out for guest post suggestions, Fred Free said he would love to do an interview. And, well, I'll let him do the introducing.

From a recent email... "My name is Fred as well. I'm new to the online collage community..." (I've never been to a Collagists Anonymous meeting, but I imagine it sounds a bit like that.) He followed that by telling me that he was having problems meeting up with other collage artists so could I take a look at his work. I did. I loved it. He is Fred One Litch and this is his work: a mix of typed text, found frames, birds, religion and americana pieced together by chance and hard work.


Fred One Litch
http://www.flickr.com/people/34700121@N04/
La Verne, California


Describe what you do in 10 words or less.

A visual celebration of discarded materials.

How long have you been creating collages?

Collage art saved my life 2 years ago.

Why collage?

My creative outlet since roughly 2001 was acrylic painting. These paintings were very big in size. During these years I was also working in the field of construction. Around 2005 I developed carpal tunnel syndrome, had surgery, got married, started working a corp job, bought a home, and basically stopped producing art. After a few dark years of making absolutely no art my wife who is a teacher brought home a set of childcraft books. I started cutting up images from those books along with the sleeves of my record collection. My humble beginnings with collage were born out of necessity and chance.




Do you have any formal art training?

I've had no formal art training. I actually failed a semester of art in high school.

Are you solely an artist or do you work in another profession?

I am currently employed by a home developer doing construction management.



When do you find time to make your art?

Since I have a day job and a wonderful family I find it easier to work in the evenings. After putting in my 8 at work I usually hang with the family for while, eat dinner, bathe the kid, hang with my wife a bit, then I hit the studio. Weekdays I usually work in the evenings from about 8 or 9 till maybe 1 in the morning. On weekends it's fairly normal to work 'til the sun comes up. I am very grateful to my family - they continue to make sacrifices that allow me to stay productive.

What materials do you like to work with and where do you find them?

Most of the material I use is dated 1950-1985. Things made prior to 1950 tend to be a little too ornate or decorative. Things made after 1985 I find mundane or a little too commonplace. I think I'm fond of these years due to my age. I was born in 1978. I find myself in a continual process of accumulating material. I hit the yard sales, the flea market, the thrift stores, abandoned buildings, empty lots, behind stores, dumpsters, etc. The hunt for the material can be more exciting than making the art. Lately I've been very interested in post consumer materials. This has rekindled my love for dumpster diving. I can remember from a very young age climbing threw dumpsters and bringing stuff home. Most things I found I would hide under bed.



Explain your process if you can.

The process is always different. The nature of the material I'm working with usually dictates the application or process in which it is used. I can never be sure of what the process is going to be, that's the fun part, you just start and you never quite know what's next until you get there. I do believe in circumstances though. I try to set myself up with circumstances or an environment in which I feel comfortable. I've found that these circumstances work best - I must surround myself with a multitude of materials. The more stuff around the better. My studio must be very messy, scraps everywhere, most people who enter the studio find it hard to believe I can get anything done it's so messy. But it works. It lends itself to happy accidents, and the pulling of material at random. Music is a must. When I find some music that is inspiring or that I work well to, I usually listen to it over and over for weeks at a time. I also find it important to stay well hydrated during sessions. Lots of coffee and diet coke.

What inspires you? Who inspires you?

The thing that inspires me most is the material I'm using. Sometimes it just feels like this stuff is just telling me how to use it. Where to put it. What colors to use. That doesn't happen all the time, but when it does it's incredible. It's like you're invincible, you can do no wrong. I continue to be inspired by urban decay, all things old, graffiti, don delillo, silver jews, sara, moust, grayson, smog, DFW, the bible, family, fred free, analog photography, friends, jesus christ, randel plowman, skateboarding, matthew rose, melanie, flipside church, and avery who has yet to be born.

Where do you see yourself in 10 years?

Thats a tough one fred. I feel like only God knows that. In the future I plan on working in digital collage. I would love to take more photos and take that much more seriously than I have. I plan on starting a DIY publishing house. Handmade books is where it's at. Me and a friend have kicked around the idea of starting a co op space. A place where I can sell art, he can sell pies and coffee, maybe get some other artists we know and just have a space where we can have fun. Involve enough people to where the space is cheap and we don't have to worry about becoming rich. Website coming soon as well. I feel like these are lofty ideas, but 10 years is a long time.

Which way is it? - Notpaper

Which way is it?

Above by firebugs.

I asked Liz Cohn if I could repost this wonderfully curated news story she posted over on deviantart, and she was happy to oblige. Thanks Liz, for the great collection!

The slings and arrows of misfortune.... well arrows anyway.... (aka my love affair with St. Sebastian)




1. woefoep, 2. woefoep, 3. andrei75, 4. Px(c), 5. mbym, 6. nonsense-prophet, 7. mbym, 8. famouswhendead, 9. momax, 10. object000, 11. bayan anderson, 12. never-effects.

Original post here.

Notpaper is a blog dedicated to showcasing the work of international collage artists. We strive to meet the artists and understand the thoughts behind the process, so interviews with artists are a big part of what we do. If you are new to the site, please enjoy our archives featuring hundreds of collagists!   more 

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  • The Collage Workbook




    "How to get started and stay inspired"

    132 pages, Published by Lark Crafts (June 5, 2012), ISBN: 1454701994.

    Available from Lark Crafts.
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  • BOLO Magazine 1




    "Stars Are Indispensible"

    96 pages in 2 colors, black and blue, 17 x 21.5 cm, 45 contributors from all over the world. The main theme is: "Stars are indispensable". It contains a music cd with 19 tracks.

    Available from BOLO store.

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  • WAFA Zine 03




    "Everything At Every Moment Is Awaiting Your Arrival."

    Limited Edition of 50 copies. Full color, 3.75 x 5″. Embossed front cover. Hand-sewn Japanese stab stitch binding. Edition number of 50, hand-numbered on reverse.

    Available from WAFA Storefront.

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  • Masters: Collage


    Major Works by Leading Artists

    Curated by Randel Plowman

    This superb new collection offers a stunning look at contemporary collage work from approximately 40 leading artists.

    Available from Lark Books.

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