Despite the title, I did not do any drawing with pencils or charcoal in this session. We focused on collage. We were allowed to play with scissors and glue (the stick sort that sticks paper and can be washed out easily).
First, we looked at Eduardo Paolozzi’s Bunk! exhibition and considered Pop Art.
Paolozzi created these collages in 1952, using images, sometimes whole pages, mostly from American magazines given to him by American ex-servicemen. They show elements of American popular culture. It is hard to imagine how the images looked to him, in a world where pictures of American culture are so common. The nostalgia for the golden age of 1950s and 1960s United States (a dream of a world created by advertising companies) sometimes seems stronger than for our own British culture of the period.
Quite a lot of the British art and design of the 1960s and early 1970s showed or implied a fascination with the bright colours and gloss of popular American culture seen in magazines and films. The Americans seemed to have so much more: endless quantities of food, big cars with shiny chrome bumpers, drive-in cinemas, fast food, central heating and air conditioning, Elvis Presley, huge refrigerators with smooth curved edges, fitted kitchens, ice cream parlours, huge supermarkets, gadgets for everything! The culture of the United States must have seemed glamorous, and especially in a Britain where wartime food rationing continued until 1954.
Paolozzi’s work looked very at home in the Hatton, in the university where Richard Hamilton had taught. Richard Hamilton had seen Paolozzi’s Bunk! collages at the first meeting of The Independent Group when they were just pages in his scrapbook. Hamilton’s collage Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing? of 1956 remains one of my favourite works. The idea of seeing popular visual culture on a par with fine art permeated my art education when I was young and influenced my approach to cultural heritage.
So what did I create?
We didn’t have quite enough time, but I rather like what I did. I would have liked to do something with rockets or machines but couldn’t find any suitable imagery in the magazines and prints we had. I did manage to find a depiction of a muscular man as my nod to the influence of Richard Hamilton (see Just what is it that makes today’s homes so different, so appealing?). I decided to add a ‘kapow’ type of shape (referencing Roy Lichtenstein’s paintings). I was going to add an American style of wholesome, rosy-cheeked young woman on the right hand side but felt it needed a colour image rather than black-and-white photocopy to work properly.
I enjoyed doing this. The idea was not to create a finished work but something that could spark off ideas. It made me realise that I really should try different ways of thinking visually like this. I came up with something that I wouldn’t have created otherwise, and was reminded of my own artistic influences.