Collages and Their Intriguing Outcomes
DR.ME is a studio made up of Ryan Doyle (DR) and Mark Edwards (ME), originally paired together on their first day of university on a “get to know each other” brief due to alphabetical serendipity. After leaving college, they moved to New York for a short time to intern for the illustrator Mike Perry. After returning to Manchester in the U.K. they started DR.ME and have been doing it ever since, though Ryan recently moved to the French Riviera, which they say has been challenging but “is actually working really quite well; we use Slack to talk constantly throughout the day and send ideas back and forth when working on a project.” They’ve been working with various clients including Sony, Red Bull Music Academy, YoungArts Miami, Budweiser, Elephant Magazine, Young Turks Records, Tri Angle Records and Manchester International Festival. Their book Cut That Out: Collage in Contemporary Design (Monacelli Press) has just been released. I asked the duo to talk as one about the project.
Are you collagists? It’s a medium that we’ve certainly both gravitated towards; I wouldn’t say that this makes us strictly collagists however. It’s always an interesting discussion trying to classify what the studio is. We’ve always thought of DR.ME as a multidisciplinary studio that is always as interested in creating work to go in a gallery as it is about creating and designing a record sleeve or a book jacket, say.
Why did you do this book? Between 2014–15, we worked on a project called “365 Days of Collage,” where—as the name suggests—we created a collage a day for a year. Each original collage was sold for a small fee (£10) and posted to the buyer. While we were working on this project we started to talk about what we could do at the end of the project with this body of work that we were creating. We decided that a book would be a lovely outcome, as then people could view all of the work at the same time and see the progression throughout the year as one cohesive object. We approached Thames & Hudson with this idea but they pointed out that they only really make monographs for well-known/dead artists (Matisse, Warhol, etc.), and as we were neither, this wouldn’t be something that they saw as possible. They did however think that we might have an interesting viewpoint on collage and so asked if we could pitch an idea. As we are designers that utilize collage within our work we thought that this would be something that we felt we could use as a starting point!
What about collage do you cover that has not been covered by, say, Dawn Awes in her classic? There are a number of fantastic titles focused around collage but none that really champion the creatives who utilize it for mainly commercial uses, rather than purely for artistic outputs. Some of my favorite pieces are record sleeves or poster art where what the artwork is created for gives it an extra layer than the purely aesthetic. For instance Leif Podhajsky’s record cover for Tame Impala’s album Innerspeaker almost amplifies the psych rock record it is visualizing.
What do you feel the role of collage is in art and design? We’ve always seen it as a very exciting medium and one that feels is constantly being reinvented and challenged by both the art worlds and the design worlds. The role is maybe to create something that is unexpected, something that feels real but unreal, the visualization of a dream—seemingly a 90-foot goldfish sluggishly swimming down 5th Avenue or a pole vaulter jumping Jupiter is believable. In collage anything is possible.
Other than its radical origins, do you believe there is something new to be tried? Always. This is where I think the combination of collage and design becomes incredibly interesting. Creating collage can be at times broad without a set theme but with the addition of a brief it becomes more channeled and disciplined, which I find really interesting. Also the use of the computer as a tool in collage is something that continues to throw up intriguing outcomes. Mat Maitland’s work from the book, for example, shows how wonderfully executed computerized collage can be.
In your book, who were your most surprising finds? Louis Reith, Ronny Hunger, Cameron Searcy and Bráulio Amado I’d say for surprising finds; the real surprising finds however were more from the interviews. We asked each featured creative about their influences and from this discovered some incredible collage artists that we weren’t familiar with, like Peter Phillips, Julian House and Tadanori Yokoo, to name just a few.
So much collage draws from the same well. How does an artist keep fresh? We find it important to be constantly experimenting with different source materials, be this painted paper, family albums, out-of-print basketball almanacs, and whenever we’re away traveling we both try and find material to use from different places. Part of an old discolored cigarette packet from a beach in Miami, combined with a set of legs cut from an old sculpture book picked up in a thrift store in Paris, becomes something wholly different due to their natural cultural differences combining to create something brand new.
How do you stay on the curve? By trying not to worry about the curve.
What is out of bounds in the collage world? I’m struggling to answer this one, so I guess nothing?
Now that cut n’ paste is so easy in the digital realm, how will it be transformed? The digital realm really just gives people more options. This can occasionally be a bad thing; one thing we’ve always enjoyed about physical collage is the finality of sticking something down. It makes you make a permanent decision, when creating work digitally you have far more opportunity to simply hit “undo.” This being said, as tools such as Photoshop become more developed, it is certainly interesting to see where this can take collage and assist in tricking the eye of the viewer.
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