Thursday, October 31, 2013

Collage vs Montage

When Elizabeth Zvonar began to exhibit her magazine collages (second image), the artist who came to mind was John Stezaker (first image).

For some observers, such a recognition would lead to a dismissal, a declaration that the artist whose work is reminiscent of another is but an imitator, which is often the case with critics who like to keep the world in line (or its artist from colouring outside them).

But rather than go there, I returned to Stezaker, particularly his Mask series, where the artist imposes one petite genre (landscape) over another (portraiture).

What I found in Stezaker's series was not an instance of collage but of montage.

The difference between collage and montage is that the former is a more spontaneous composition, performed on the spot, whereas the latter is contrived: a compositional idea in advance of its material inventory.

With Stezaker's Masks, the artist begins with portraits -- where the lines are as finite as the faces that bind them -- then seeks out landscapes that can be modelled to meet those lines.

Zvonar, on the other hand, often applies abstractions over her figures, images whose beginnings and ends are mutable, irrelevant to the surface over which they are applied. The effect is not a mask but its opposite: a surface that neither hides what lies behind it, nor likens it to something else, but leaves it open to imagination -- the same way Ian Wallace uses the monochrome, or the early, furniture sculpture-era Ken Lum once used the void.

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