Cut and Paste: 400 Years of Collage at Scottish National Gallery Of Modern Art (Modern Two) is the first survey exhibition of collage ever to take place anywhere in the world and if, like me, you imagine collage to be mainly a creation of Victorian scrapbooks and paper covered screens, then prepare to be surprised.
In this well curated and clearly time-lined exhibition, prepare over many rooms to take a historical journey in over 250 exhibits that take you from 16th century anatomical ‘flap prints’, to computer-based images. Along the way, creations of work by amateur, professional and unknown artists, to now iconic revolutionary cubist masterpieces by Pablo Picasso (“Tête [Head]”) and “Bottle of Vieux Marc, Glass, Guitar and Newspaper”, both from 1913 and Raoul Hausmann (The Art Critic, 1919-20) give us understanding of how “Cut and Paste” has been, and continues to be, an enduring attraction to so many creative people from all national, social and economic backgrounds.
There seems to be something very instinctive in many of us about wanting to create something new and individual from existing images, or the mundane products that surround us in our daily lives; Victorian scrapbooks, little girls of the 20th century with their scrapbooks, iconic cubist masterpieces, pop art experimentation from Peter Blake. Theatrical stage and costume design also feature here with our main exhibition image from “Costume Design for One of the Three Kings in 'La Liturgie',” 1915 by Natalia Goncharova being as fresh as it ever was over 100 years later. All these artists have produced images of uncountable diversity, yet the creative processes behind each decision to cut and paste remain pretty much the same in every case. Perhaps this is the enduring appeal of this endlessly variable media - anyone can do it.
Film and television over the years have also been perfect for the Cut and Paste art-form, so it is appropriate that the work of Terry Gilliam is represented in this exhibition too. Can many visual images be more impregnated on the minds of anyone watching television of the period than these ones from Monty Python’s Flying Circus?
Cut and Paste, out of all of the “art styles”, seems to be one of the most adaptive to its contemporary situation, and who can forget iconic record cover images such as The Sex Pistols or the ransom style use of cut and pasted lettering in so much of punk’s visual armoury. From the publications by Dada and 20th century masters such as Henri Matisse (“Le Clown (The Clown)”) from 1947, to throw away comic books, the visual manipulation of existing images to create new images with new meanings and often subversive sub-texts has meant that in the 20th century this former pastime has evolved into a fully developed art-form in its own right.
Even now, in our computerised “photo-shop” age where even the scissors to cut and paste are digital, the result is the same, but now, the line between reality and visual fiction has become even more blurred and at times indistinguishable.
Cut and Paste, like all art forms of course can take on its own darker side depending on who is using it, and how that new collection of images or words is being used, and this darker aspect to its use is also touched upon in this exhibition
Review by Tom King
Cut and Paste: 400 Years of Collage
Sat 29 Jun 2019 - Sun 27 Oct 2019
Open daily, 10am-5pm
£13-£11 (concessions available)
25 & under £8.50-£7.50