Collage at the CRAG: Past, Present and Future

Collage is a medium all its own within visual art, referring to art made from combining a variety of forms, materials, and sources to create a new whole. By layering different information and materials, new meaning develops from the meaning of the original sources.

Caroline Monnet, Bear (anomalia series). Collage and silkscreen on paper, 2010.

The beginning of collage is often attributed to George Braque and Pablo Picasso during the Synthetic Cubist period (1912-1914). The term “collage” comes from the French word coller, or “to glue.” Collage’s definition as a visual art has expanded through technology. Analogue, or handmade collage, may include newspaper clippings, images from books and magazines, coloured or handmade papers, portions of other artwork, cloth or found objects. The techniques used to create this type of collage can be as simple as tearing up images, pasting images over one another and applying coloured surfaces with straight or organically-ripped edges. Digital collage is a technique that utilizes computer design and image manipulation to achieve seamless effects. 

Collage doesn’t just have to be two-dimensional magazine cutouts, although that’s loads of fun and can produce amazing results. The definition of collage can be expanded to include video à la Janie Geiser’s 1994 short film The Red Book which was screened as part of Landscapes of the Interior this summer in the CRAG’s Satellite exhibition. Montage film is rooted in early film editing that involved physically cutting and rearranging filmstrip reminiscent of collage techniques. This changes the speed and variety of images viewers see, and can create chaotic effects and manipulate time.

Robert Rauschenberg, Rhyme, 1956. Combine: oil, fabric, necktie, paper, enamel, pencil, and synthetic polymer paint on canvas. RRF 56.005

Sculpture is also prevalent in the history of collage practice. It is also known as assemblage. American artist Robert Rauschenberg created “combines” that incorporated painting and found objects. Using personal objects was a surprising and subversive way to express himself that was different from the popular Abstract Expressionist style, challenging notions of originality.

Collage can be a powerful tool for change. The medium offers the opportunity for artists to add commentary through familiar imagery and objects. Relatable materials increase audience recognition and artist credibility, making the message more convincing. The possibilities of using collage to address a variety of issues are endless. Artists can leave clues within the elements of a piece to allude to anything from social and political to personal and global concerns.

Bushra Junaid, Poetics of Relation. Digital drawing, 2017.

VOICES AFAR // Diversity-based practices in collage is the third and final phase of the CRAG’s year-long Satellite Gallery exhibition, Collage, sans colle, co-curated by Jenelle Pasiechnik and Vicky Chainey Gagnon. The works of three Canadian artists, Caroline Monnet, Jerry Evans and Bushra Junaid, will be featured in our lobby until November 20th. 

Bushra Junaid will be joining us on October 4th from 6 to 8 pm for a combined lecture and collage workshop in the CRAG lobby. The cost is just $5 and all materials for making your own collage will be provided. Check out our updated fall Programming Guide for lots more collage activities happening, like regular Artist Trading Card events.


Don’t forget to keep up with our travelling community art project, the Collage Caravan! Follow #CollageCaravan and our social media feeds for updates on its island adventures this month. The restored 1975 Winnebago has been converted in to a mobile art gallery and it’s now ready to hit the road!

Photo courtesy of Rachel Henry.