Alison Dunhill


Artist's Statement: Collages & Constructions


Series 36:

Arising from several years’ interest in making textured but flat abstract collages with painted elements, in these works I used domestic found material to make relief collages with varying degrees of structure.

Their materials are often of a deliberately ephemeral nature and might include discarded packaging items like mascara boxes, flower cellophane and bits of deflated balloon. Other source materials might be plumbers’ olives and saddle clips freed from their first function.

The resulting art objects are small in size, typically 6” x 4” in the box frames which protect them and are designed to be either wall hung or placed on a shelf. Few are without some protuberance or expansion into space. Some works might have parts which are open to the air and light or small [secret] moving bits. They occupy space behind the glass of the box frame like giant insects. Their juxtaposition of components may give a resonance of poetry or humour. Any ‘found’ figurative components are incidental to the overall abstraction.

The series is conceived in the surrealist spirit of play and both Joseph Cornell’s Boxes and André Breton’s Poem Objects have inspired this work.

Boxed Collage constructions:

I then developed works which, though emanating from the 36 series and sharing most of their source materials, differ from them in their claiming of real space.

Although not fully sculptural, the six works are an experiment into the possibility of simultaneously occupying the categories and spaces of two and three dimensions. The works can be viewed from both, opposite, sides separately. They are free-standing and double-sided collages.

The first three works used only paper and card in their construction (Melusine, Philomel and Helibore). The next two, still using card as structure, have added solid objects (Slick and Footballer). During the process the physical balance of their construction had to be considered equally to their aesthetic balance.

Due to the material fragility of the resulting objects’ surfaces, they are covered in Perspex. Each work rests on a mirror framed in wood. The mirror adds another dimension from a high view point and therefore they should ideally be displayed on low plinths.

Fazenda installation:

From the above two series I then developed a free hanging work. A largely vertical form it is made up of ten separate rectangular works mounted back to back and attached to a black tape, leaving a view of five works from each side.

Delicate and light in its entirety, this work will move a little in prevailing air currents. It follows a restricted colour and material theme of black, white, red and copper. It follows the exploration of the free-standing, double-sided collages and yet is quite different in result.

There is a link too to the slightly later Ellipse. Although these two works are very different in their visual result, they both follow a themed and restricted palette; they both hang in the air and they both refuse to occupy space in a fully sculptural sense. Rather, they both push the boundaries of the two dimensional.

Ellipse installation:

I further developed these projects into a large work comprised of a hanging ovoid form constructed from dowel, in which I suspend composites of (copper) metal off-cuts, mirror and glass. These forms repeat a sequence of colour and material in visual elements which allow no diversion from the chosen format; as in John Cage’s the score and its variants.

Ellipse departs from investigations preceding it as it hangs in space (no walls, shelves or plinths) and delineates its own form and its interior components in the air of the chosen interior. This work moves according to given conditions and reflects light changes in its copper and mirror surfaces.

Alexander Calder has been a primary inspiration for this work.

Black and White series:

A recent series of seven works involves construction in paper and card in black and white. Some components of the 36 series remain, to break up the black and white tyranny perhaps, such as plumbers’ olives or beads, but these works are primarily in the formalist tradition and owe an allegiance to Kandinsky’s work and his theories in ‘Point and Line to Plane’.

The 8” x 8”white canvases onto which they are mounted are intrinsic to their realisation. They can be individually hung with the composition working in any chosen direction and in pairs, trios or quartets vertically, horizontally or diagonally.

Sweet Chance series:

I moved back into thinking about colour in a connected series of six canvas-mounted collages. Some objects are added, copper in Sweet Chance with Eightand Sweet Chance with Copper), food in Sweet Chance with Brown Sugar.

Painted or found colour in the series was in a predominantly green and pink sequence on a black, white and neutral grid.

Turquoise with Wedges constructions:

Moving into the use of more durable materials, I have recently started making constructions from a simple, readily available and extremely versatile component part: the canvas wedge. The wedge form is usually a rectangle topped by a triangle. Some wedges are left as natural wood and others are painted.

The wedge thrives on repetition and introduces an inherent symmetry to each piece which I might work in harmony with, or disrupt. Some constructions in the series exist as openly formed pieces occupying space independently, needing all round viewing.

I have been inspired here by the work of the Australian sculptor John Panting and his phrase partly enclosed volume. Most works in the series are relief constructions mounted on canvas. Other component parts I have enjoyed using are embroidery hoops and camembert boxes, a cigar box, coffee stirrers (thank you Pret and Costa), threads, wire, scrim and more copper bits.

There has been an undercurrent of the memory of childhood games; pick-up-sticks, wooden coloured geometric shapes for pattern building, American Indian chief’s head dresses and kites.

Alison Dunhill




All images © A G Dunhill