Friday, October 12, 2012

John Digby and the democratic art of collage making

John Digby, the collagist
We have already written about John Digby, the Oyster Bay poet, in our article - At home with artists Joan and John Digby. This time we concentrate on John's collage making art - a livelong, all-consuming passion.

John considers collage making a democratic art - even an inexperienced person can create a collage. Materials are humble, process relatively simple. This is a deceptive statement though - one needs a great deal of creativity to make an engaging collage, experience and manual dexterity to execute it properly, and foresight to create a lasting work. All these John has in abundance. His collages are captivating and the craftsmanship is flawless.

He created couple of different thematic series - birds and other animals and abstract work, among others. For the latter he produced his own paper designs through a laborious but esthetically satisfying process. For other collages he uses acid-free paper copies of mostly 19th century engravings or drawings from natural history or travel books.

Whatever the theme, John is trying to infuse a sense of humor into his pieces. In that he follows his great inspiration - British painter, etcher, and printmaker Samuel Palmer, whose humor carried him through many dark periods of life.

How does one read, understand a collage? John gets various responses to his work - the animal collages are usually read through the narrative, the abstract ones as a more intellectual challenge. Interestingly, John's work receive great response from surgeons, who, in addition to the esthetics, also understand the tactile aspect of his work.

John is generous with his knowledge - he and his wife Joan authored a highly informative book on the subject - 'The Collage Handbook', where, in addition to the history of the genre and examples of collages by various artists, they present John's techniques and materials.

Even with the many years of experience, John's pursuit of perfection continues. He believes that if one's work is not difficult, no progress is made. He also does not approve of the word "like". He finds it vulgar. He himself will rather either appreciate or not appreciate the effort and the outcome of an artistic undertaking.

John's collages have been exhibited internationally and found place in both museums and private collections.

No comments:

Post a Comment