Category: "Collage"

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  03:42:00 pm, by   , 194 words  
Categories: Art, Collage


This collage started with the picture of a Peruvian mummy. For a while it was laying on my desk, on the Chagall, with a couple of hands groping for the face. Today I started it all over again. I first put the picture of the head on the Chagall - it look very dream-like, but a little too simple.

I then put a stripe of a photo of L.Trabelsi on it – there it was, but I didn’t like so much the right part (Chagall), even if the picture looked quite OK.

I decided to put another Trabelsi – stripe on it – the result was not so good as before.

I had to do something radical. I stuck a big fragment on it, a little staggered in respect to the anatomy of the head, giving the impression of a shift or absorption – whatever you can imagine. Politically, I’d say that those dictators were sorts of living dead – emigrations seems to accelerate the dying progress.

P.S. In my actual collage work, I alternate “serious” collages with lighter ones – 1) because I can’t live in those regions every day, 2) I don’t want to be definable by one kind of collage


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  11:35:00 am, by   , 239 words  
Categories: Art, Collage


When I started making collages, I felt that painting didn’t give me a connection to the events in the world. Painting, in my eyes, deals essentially with painting. I must admit that my collages of the past years were mostly concerned with pictures, often taken from fashion magazines and art reproductions. They mainly dealt with collage itself. I mean by that researching the expressive possibilities. Without pretending that I take a new direction, my inspiration now mainly comes from news pictures, linking myself to my beginnings in collage.
The original, showing the “tigress” of Tunisia, arriving at a fashionable place in France, became something like tragedy in my eyes. It’s the sudden destruction of what was before, of the own image, an outburst of violence against oneself, after terrorizing the whole country for decades. And I muse about the moment when the decision to abandon, to flee, to leave everything behind in a couple of minutes. It’s a catastrophe anyway, even if I don’t feel committed to dictators or other predators.
On a personal level, leaving a (false) image of oneself, not knowing what is going to come or how to replace it, are questions I ask myself. Another question is the exile. Personally, I am glad that I left my home country, gave away my passport, because in my eyes Germany, as a territory, bears the curse of Cain. I changed language, habits, but I remain an exile.

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  09:31:00 am, by   , 396 words  
Categories: Art, Collage


This time I have three versions of a same collage base. Normally I make many modifications until the final picture looks satisfactory to my eyes. After that, I generally prefer to work on a different subject. I event try to avoid repetition in my collages which is not easy as their number is steadily growing.
It started with the reverted eyes on a face. The rest went quite as usual: I found a “body” and a “theme”: the open book and thought about the ecstasy of studying Holy Scriptures, or a kind of madness if you prefer. In the solitude of the study, we see these eyes wandering between the onlooker and the text. That’s scaring! But still, I wasn’t quite sure about the result and felt that I could do some more work. But my wife told me to leave the collage like that. So I decided to follow her advice. I scanned the collage and tried some other possibilities that are displayed here.

I found an ad about men’s wear and found that it was a good match despite the fact that the hiding theme is recurrent in my work – maybe because of my early childhood in Nazi-Germany. I hesitated: I didn’t want to repeat myself. After a brief thought of a yellow star in the right bottom, I changed my mind for a Shakespearian interpretation: man in a jacket that’s too large for him, trying to hide in it or even to disappear. I added a kind of weird crown to make it more evident and to make the picture more colored. In these days where a dictator is not sure of remaining in place, I felt this collage as being quite adequate.

The third one is the fruit of hazard. I fell upon a picture showing a Muslim woman doing some journalistic work at the risk of her life. I tore it up and it matched beautifully in spite of the many snags in the picture. These breaks may be seen as signs of frailty. So this third version is about writing, telling and the danger these people are menaced with when the established power lets the mob loose, like in Egypt.

I also remembered a Carolingian miniature showing an inspired Evangelist trembling or shaken by what he is writing down, a picture I have been loving since ever (Gospel of Ebbo).

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  05:52:00 pm, by   , 291 words  
Categories: Art, Collage


This collage is the result of a complete change when it was almost completed. I was interested in the griping gesture which originally concerned some food. My first attempt was with the Tokyo setting and the overacting of young girls I often witness in the streets of Geneva. To my discharge, I must admit that I am entering the 70ies tomorrow, so that may explain my conservative views on that kind of behavior.

When I looked on the picture, I found rather flat from a spatial point of view and formally quite uninteresting. I decided to destroy it while keeping the grasping girl. Trying different settings, and glued the headless man against the girl. The idea of a man grasping for the girl changed her gesture into one of despair – I got my plot! Rummaging through my magazine pile, I finally fell upon the candid photo of some Belgian brothel. All I had to do was to fix the girl properly on the naked body which I did by cutting away her dress.

I rarely discard any of my collages; I mostly try to push them further with important modifications. But this time, the change was radical. What seems interesting to me is that the “theme” or “subject” of the picture doesn’t appear at once. In the beginning, it’s playing around with possibilities. And it’s through this process the idea crystallizes – and once it’s there, the rest seems easy. But in the years after art school, this crystallization didn’t occur and I experienced depressive feelings of absolute failure. To overcome this, one needs success, for sure, and one can build up this feeling by writing on one’s work and by deciding to change direction when the wheels risk to get stuck.

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  04:52:00 pm, by   , 249 words  
Categories: Art, Collage


This collage has made a huge impression to me. In fact, it made me halt. Why? Because I felt that it is very important in my collage flow.
Starting with the idea of an angel, it rapidly turned into a philosophical or theological picture. Here are some cues for understanding it.
An inscription: toujours ave – with a truncated e , and a cut off c = toujours ave/ toujours avec.
A Koran held open, the left thumb erasing the text.
A profile that makes me think of bar-mitzvah, where the boy is meant to read the torah.
A crowd in the background, flowing against a wall. This photo comes from the panic in Duisburg’s Love Parade 2010.
How do these elements come together, make sense?
The first idea I had was that the word had been taken off the boys’ mouth, or that the Koran is substituted to the Torah. The white spot means that it can’t be the ultimate truth because it is fragmentary or misinterpreted. But the erasure is also a sacrilege, an attempt to go back to the white page. I don’t know if the text is necessary.
The boy seems to be looking inwards; he doesn’t care about the mob, neither about the book. His head glows like his … (wing?). Does it mean that he is chosen? Is he the one who knows? Is he the messenger?
Many questions are left open. I hope that someone will comment here.

PS You can see a larger picture at Saatchi's:

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  10:37:00 am, by   , 304 words  
Categories: Art, Collage


This collage in order to show some decisions I took during the elaboration. It started with a rather uninspiring picture of a woman with her baby and the red lips glued between both heads, joining them in an ape-like figure. But the collage isn’t there.

The scalp on the top blurs the profiles underneath and the new arm gives a better dynamic.

The other arm “holds” the composition. Much better. But still…
The colored fragment makes a good contrast with the black&white picture and a pyramidal shape. But the picture lacks expression. I have to change it radically or I’ll be stuck.

Now the picture looks much stronger, but I hesitate: Is the embrace strong enough? Not really. I like the movement from the brown trousers to the smile and hesitate sacrificing it to a stronger expression – a clasp. But I have to put more steroids into the picture, I cannot leave like this. Allez!

Finally! The initial idea – a hug - is present from the beginning to the final picture, starting with a kind of childish “joke” (the red lips) or iconoclast gesture one can often see on billboards and going through a process choices: “Do I stop now or not?” “How can I can go further but keep the best parts of the picture?” And the answer is always: “You must sacrifice the part you like in order to be free to progress”. It means to me that I mustn’t be afraid of making fundamental changes in the picture.

There are two dangers waiting for the collage maker – stopping too early or overdoing it. My problem has always been my tendency to quit my work when it wasn’t yet accomplished. In these late years of mine, I got a better discipline, reinforced by my teaching experience, where I “push” my students a lot.

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  03:26:00 pm, by   , 265 words  
Categories: Art, Collage


To a friend asking me how I felt now, I replied: mortal!
Till my operation, I had never really thought of being so vulnerable – accidents happening to others. The same has been true for my mother of whom I don’t remember any serious illness or accident till her 90ies. My father had a heart attack in his 50ies, stopped smoking cigars and went happily on till his 70ies, when his mind got confused. And I am heading to my 70th anniversary.
It occurs that I have been working on a collage that is strongly linked to this theme. It started quite simply with a picture showing to young ladies. The frontality of the figures changed radically when I stuck the fragment of a face on the right figure.

The body movement became contradictory, an oscillation between front and rear – an effect I cherish because I want the picture to move. The left figure than got another torso, creating a forward draught opposed to the right receding figure. At this stage, the collage looked quite incomplete, but the main element was there.

I then worked on the left head, thinking of an embrace

– but, who is hugged? The old man? Or is he leaving the young one? And if it is so, then where is he going? I don’t know the answer and this ignorance is the proof of the collage magic which goes its own ways, by the means of its con-junctions of fragments (I feel that I put more of them into my pictures), telling me a story about ageing, love and future separations.

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  12:32:00 pm, by   , 231 words  
Categories: Art, Collage


My latest collages are quite mysterious to myself. But I have decided to privilege creation over meaning. This means that I surrender to the flow of pictures that I produce day after day. Before my operation I had the illusion of mastering what I was doing, that the meaning was quite evident to me and that the progress of the collage was quite logical.
So what happened? An operation, some days spent in hospital and several weeks of recovery. Till then, I was quite sure about my health. Now I am uncertain, wondering what’s going on inside me.
So maybe I am expressing this state of incomprehension?

This collage is really strange. Death is a figure of melancholy, as described in Wittkower’s Born under Saturn or by Panofsky. The displayed page of the book it is holding is about Xmas. Till here, I can link all this to the melancholic effect of the end of the year. But this red figure leaping out from somewhere, holding a leather belt? Why is it masked? Is it the other aspect of Death – the aggressive, sadistic one? It does share a leg with the Death figure. Or is it just the picture of life emerging from Death? Is it a devil executing some evil task?
Questions. The artist should know. And I don’t.
Happy Xmas and a Happy New Year to all my readers.

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  10:58:00 am, by   , 126 words  
Categories: Art, Collage


Here is a collage that I do not wholly understand. It is certainly linked to my recent operation, but still, it recedes when I try to analyze it.
So I'll restrict myself to showing 3 steps from the making of this collage.
The first one was a sort of pietà - very tragical.

I let it lay on my desk till I felt that it mas too "déjà vu" despite the dramatic expression of it. As usual, I decided to sacrifice the picture in order make something more satisfying to my eyes.

But still - it still didn't meet my expectations. So I tried another transformation

but I rejected it.
The final collage: Knife, seems to me quite interesting as it reintroduces the female figure of the initial pietà.

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  11:45:00 am, by   , 769 words  
Categories: Art, Collage

Yes I can, Sir !

My hospital stay was a big change for me. Not because of the revelation of the cancerous nature of the tumor (the operation solves this problem permanently), but because the absence of pain helped me to live very consciously my stay over 10 days in a room of 7.
I was fortunate to have very good companions in misfortune: there was a great solidarity in our room.
Suffering from a postoperative infection that gave me bouts of fever, I was on antibiotics for seven days, the last days without any fever. That's when I tried to get back to collage. It was not easy indeed. At the hospital, once we take possession of our bed and we expect our operation, a torpor seizes us all: impossible to read, and to stroll around, because we remain riveted on the moment where they’ll pick us for the operation, and this moment is never precise or definitive... After the operation, the doctor's visit plays the same role, so it is difficult to go far from the room. That is why I did my first collage on the table in the room, my bed being 1 m away. I had brought a glue stick, scissors and 2-3 magazines – the glue stick dropped me at work and I had to launch an SOS to my wife - the basic equipment of the gluer. From the second day on , I moved to a nice table in the hallway, preferring the quiet loneliness to the bustle of our room.
My first collages were very dark, dealing with pain and death.

No doubt it felt good to express profound anxieties, even if I do not remember having consciously experienced them. It was only on the last two days, the prospect of my next outing, that the collages were "lighter".
Making collages in the hospital was good for me because it allowed me to reconstruct myself as "Berni", as artist and subject of my pictures. More so than during the 10 days I have experienced sudden weight gain (4 kg), edema, hair loss and swelling of the legs, my body transforming before my helpless eyes. Therefore, ultimately, I say: Yes I can, Sir! But I'm always here with a moral of a warrior.

Mon séjour à l’hôpital a été un grand bouleversement pour moi. Non pas à cause de la révélation de la nature cancéreuse de la tumeur (l’opération règle ce problème définitivement), mais parce que l’absence de douleurs m’a permis de vivre mon séjour de plus de 10 jours en chambre à 7 de manière très consciente.
J’ai eu la chance d’avoir des compagnons d’infortune de qualité de sorte qu’il régnait une grande solidarité dans notre chambre.
Victime d’une infection post-opératoire qui me donnait des poussées de fièvre, j’ai été 7 jours durant sous antibiotiques, les derniers jours dans fièvre aucune. C’est alors que j’ai essayé de me remettre au collage. Ce ne fut pas aisé. En effet. À l’hôpital, dès qu’on prend possession de son lit et qu’on attend son opération, une torpeur s’empare de tous : impossible de lire, d’aller de ci et de là, car on reste rivé sur le moment où on vient nous chercher pour l’opération, moment qui n’est jamais précis ni définitif au niveau de l’horaire… Après l’opération, c’est la visite du médecin qui joue ce rôle, ce qui fait qu’il est difficile de s’éloigner beaucoup de la chambre. C’est pourquoi mon premier collage, je l’ai fait sur la table de la chambre, à 1 m de mon lit à peine. J’avais emporté bâton de colle, ciseaux et 2-3 magazines – le bâton de colle m’a lâché en plein travail et j’ai dû lancer un SOS à ma femme – l’équipement de base du colleur. Dès le 2e jour, je me suis installé à une belle table dans le couloir, préférant la quiétude créatrice à l’agitation de la chambre.
Mes premiers collages ont été très noirs, traitant de la douleur et de la mort. Sans doute que cela m’a fait du bien d’exprimer ces angoisses profondes, même si je ne me souviens pas de les avoir consciemment ressenties. Ce n’est qu’aux deux derniers jours, devant la perspective de ma prochaine sortie, que les collages se sont « allégés ».
Faire du collage à l’hôpital a été bénéfique pour moi, car cela m’a permis de me reconstituer en tant que « Berni », en tant qu’artiste et sujet de mes images. Cela d’autant plus que durant les 10 jours, j’ai expérimenté prise de poids subite (4kg), œdèmes, chute de cheveux et gonflement des jambes, mon corps se transformant sous mes yeux impuissants. C’est pourquoi, in fine, je dis : Yes I can, Sir!, car je suis toujours là avec un moral de guerrier.

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Blog on art, centered on collage. It is meant as a sort of logbook of my creative work.


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