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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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  10:41:00 am, by   , 773 words  
Categories: Non catégorisé, Art, Collage


A collage is made of existing images assembled in a certain order. It is an art of quotation. Thus, there are fragments of all sorts of origin. E.g.: photos, ads, art reproductions, texts. To give an analogy, one thinks of TS Eliot or Joyce in literature or Shostakovich and Schnittke (“It is one of my aims in life to bridge the gulf between serious and light music, even if I break neck in the process.”) in music. Because of its fragmentary nature, the question of the relationship between these bits of images raises. It can be avoided by creating a collage - puzzle, or working on the border. My work focuses on this frontier; this clash between fragments is expected to produce sparks of meaning and form. I compared it with puns. But we must say that my collages are figurative and heirs of the pictorial tradition of our culture.

In collage, the risk is the breakup of the space of the work, fragmentation. Fortunately, the use of rhyme (the same in another form), the extension of a line, a space makes it possible to insert the fragments into a plausible poetic space.
The work includes - for each component - a phase of separation or extraction, then a second phase of inclusion or juxtaposition and so on. When everything is in place, I experience a huge satisfaction, like a conductor who managed to make play all the instruments which actually quite heterogeneous together or as a chef taking new unexplored paths.
The implications of this work are: the loss of the center in favor of to two or more nodes, the collapse of the classical perspective space, a set of poetic associations with multiple referents (as opposed to a unique or propagandist picture), deformations that are due to the desire to be expressive.
I have been pasting since my crisis of inspiration that I experienced after my release from the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in 1965. I realized it was my favorite field. Last year I stopped painting, drawing. Without regret. For the world of collage gives me what I always wanted: a work that remains longtime open and can change radically under development, offering me many surprises every time and a flirt with the limits of what an image can digest as ruptures.

Le collage est fait d’images préexistantes assemblées en un certain ordre. C’est un art de citation. De ce fait, on y trouve des fragments de toutes sortes d’origine. Par ex : des photos, des pubs, des reproductions d’art, des textes. Pour donner un parallèle, on songera à T.S.Eliot ou Joyce en littérature ou à Shostakovitch ou Schnittke (« L’un de mes buts est de combler le fossé qui sépare musique savante et musique de divertissment, même si je dois me casser le cou pour y arriver. ») en musique. Du fait de son caractère fragmentaire, se pose la question du lien entre ces bouts d’images. On peut soit l’éviter en créant un collage – puzzle, ou bien travailler sur la frontière. Mon travail porte sur cette frontière, ce choc entre fragments qui est censé produire des étincelles de sens et de forme. J’ai comparé cela aux jeux de mots. Mais il faut dire que mes collages sont figuratifs et héritiers de la tradition picturale de notre culture.
Dans le collage, le risque est l’éclatement de l’espace de l’œuvre, la fragmentation. Heureusement, l’utilisation de rimes (le même sous une autre forme), le prolongement d’une ligne, d’un espace permettent d’insérer les fragments dans un espace plausible, poétique.
Le travail comporte – pour chaque élément - une phase de séparation ou d’extraction, puis une 2e phase d’insertion ou de juxtaposition et ainsi de suite. Quand tout est en place, je vis une énorme satisfaction, à l’instar d’un chef d’orchestre qui a réussi à faire jouer ensemble des instruments somme toute assez hétéroclites ou comme un chef cuisinier empruntant des voies nouvelles, inexplorées etc.
Les conséquences de ce travail sont : la perte du centre au profit de plusieurs nœuds, l’éclatement de l’espace perspectif classique, un jeu d’associations poétique avec des référents multiples (contrairement à une image univoque ou propagandiste), des déformations qui sont dues à la volonté d’être expressif.
Je fais du collage depuis ma crise d’inspiration que j’ai vécue après ma sortie de l’ Ecole des Beaux-Arts en 1965. J’ai compris que c’était mon domaine de prédilection. Depuis une année, j’ai arrêté de peindre, de dessiner. Sans regret. Car le monde du collage m’offre ce que j’ai toujours recherché : une œuvre qui reste longtemps ouverte et qui peut changer radicalement en cours d’élaboration, m’offrant des surprises à chaque fois et un flirt avec la limite de ce que l’image peut digérer comme ruptures.

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  10:39:00 am, by   , 969 words  
Categories: Non catégorisé, Art, Collage


The term collage hides different artistic processes that share the handling of image fragments and their insertion into the pictorial space.

If originally the papier collé used this trick as a reference to the realin term of quotations ("log", "wood", "printed letter", “rattan ", etc.), Dadaist collage combined elements in a playful or provocative manner, often with original typographical research. But in both cases, the photographic elements were relatively unimportant. Only from Max Ernst's collages on it becomes a "picture", a dream or virtual world. This option was the major route of collage and photomontage à la Photoshop. What characterizes them, in my opinion is that they are based on the model of the Renaissance painting, but with incongruities or inconsistencies. But we can find such abnormalities with painters like Piero di Cosimo or in mannerism. I mean, that this kind of "collage" refers to a conventional model.

As for me, I am somewhere else. And in this lies my singularity: I work on the border, while the collage-montage set earlier seeks to overcome them in creating imperceptible transitions. An American professor spoke of "edginess" about my collages. Indeed, what interests me since 10 years is the effect produced by the collision of two heterogeneous tectonic surfaces. The risk of explosion is so strong that many artists avoid it or move to a puzzle of unrelated elements except by a theme that connects them if ever. What I do with my fractures, is to play both on the break (wound gaping) and the junction (suture, sewing, scar). I would say that many of my collages are ancient wounded who still bear traces of their injuries.

Under this aspect, the use of tear and cut becomes clearer: They are not lacerations as some artists do (Villeglé), but a surgical action over the images that inundate us and condition us. Without this remedial action, the image remains wide open, mutilated, although any image tends towards coherence, to a whole or a certain perfection and harmony. It is this tendency of viewers to harmonize the picture that I put in my favor.

Why break the image? Because it is always imbued with an ideology and its appropriating (detournement) reveals its composed and manipulative nature. And because the images are consistent with an Edenic time when the church was the center of the village and the physical and psychological universe well-ordered. Which - in my opinion - is no longer the case. Such images evoke in us a great nostalgia - see e.g. a landscape by Corot

now at the Rath Museum, Geneva, then you step out on the Place Neuve just there, and you compare.

But I'm not a thug, I try to glue the pieces, without cheating by laser exfoliation and by this erase any trace of an original break I want to be visible.


Sous le terme collage se cachent des procédés artistiques différents qui ont en commun la manipulation de fragments d’images et leur insertion dans l’espace pictural.
Si à l’origine le papier collé usait de ce stratagème pour utiliser la référence au réel sous forme de citation (« journal », « bois », « lettre imprimée » « rotin » etc.), le collage dadaïste combinait les éléments de manière ludique, voire provocatrice, souvent avec une recherche typographique originale. Mais dans les deux cas, les éléments photographiques restaient relativement peu importants. Ce n’est qu’à partir de Max Ernst que le collage devient « tableau », un univers onirique ou virtuel. Cette option a été la voie majeure du collage et des photomontages à la photoshop. Ce qui les caractérise, à mon avis, c’est qu’ils sont basés sur le modèle du tableau peint de la Renaissance, mais avec des incongruités, ou illogismes. Mais on peut trouver ce genre d’anormalités chez des peintres comme Piero di Cosimo ou chez les Maniéristes. Je veux dire par là que ce genre de « collage » se réfère à un modèle classique.
Moi par contre, je me situe ailleurs. Et c’est en cela que réside ma singularité : je travaille sur la frontière, alors que le collage-photomontage défini plus haut cherche à la gommer à créer des transitions imperceptibles. Un professeur américain a parlé de « edginess » à propos de mes collages. En effet, ce qui m’intéresse depuis 10 années env., c’est l’effet produit par le choc tectonique de deux surfaces hétérogènes. Le risque d’éclatement est alors très fort et beaucoup d’artistes l’évitent ou se dirigent vers un puzzle d’éléments non reliés, sauf par une thématique qui les relie tant soit peu. Ce que je fais avec mes fractures, c’est de jouer à la fois sur la rupture (blessure, béance) et la jonction (suture, couture, cicatrice). Je dirais donc que beaucoup de mes collages sont d’anciens blessés guéris qui portent la trace de leurs traumatismes.
On comprendra mieux alors l’usage de la déchirure et de la coupe qui ne sont pas des lacérations comme certains artistes (Villeglé), mais une action chirurgicale sur les images qui nous inondent et nous conditionnent. Sans cette action réparatrice, l’image reste béante, mutilée, bien que, toute image tende vers une cohérence, vers un tout, voire une certaine perfection ou harmonie. C’est cette tendance du spectateur à harmoniser l’image que je mets à mon profit.
Pourquoi casser l’image ? Parce qu’elle est toujours empreinte d’une idéologie et que son détournement révèle sa nature fabriquée et manipulatrice. Et parce que les images cohérentes correspondent à une époque édénique où l’église était au centre du village et l’univers physique et psychique bien ordonné. Ce qui – à mon avis – n’est plus le cas. De telles images évoquent chez nous une grande nostalgie – regardez par ex. un paysage de Corot au Musée Rath, puis vous sortez sur la Place Neuve attenante, et vous comparez. Mais je ne suis pas un casseur, j’essaie de recoller les morceaux, sans faire du gommage au laser, en effaçant toute trace d’une brisure originelle, donc sans tricher.

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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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