Melbourne-based UK artist Rachael Edwards creates surreal, colourful collages from mixed media. She takes things – bits and pieces that she’s collected and found – and turns the traditional mode of collage on it’s head. Edwards’ collages aren’t your run of the mill cut-and-pastes; they’re funky and modern, with a slick edge that feels somehow whimsical and otherworldly at the same time.
Rachael is about to premiere a shiny new show at one of Outlet Magazine’s favourite galleries, Off the Kerb. Opening on February 26th and running from the 26th through to March 11; the show, called Analog Dreams, is Edwards’ first Australian exhibition.
I recently had the chance to chat with Rachael about her upcoming show, the inspirations and themes behind Analog Dreams, and what drew her to collage:
Outlet Magazine: Rachael, you’re based in Melbourne, but hail from the UK. What brought you to our shores?
Rachael Edwards: The Sunshine! And a change of scenery. I’ve been here for four years, I love Melbourne but may be returning to the UK in the future.
O: What inspired you to begin working in mixed media collage?
RE: I have a BA in Embroidery and have always worked in mixed media since I was at school, I like collecting materials and textures and enjoy organizing and arranging these collections. At university I often worked three dimensionally, I guess collage is a way of transferring these ideas in a more practical and space saving way.
O: Could you tell us a little bit about the basics of your process? Like what you mount on, and how you get your collages to look so sharp and refined?
RE: Often I use regular white mount board which I sometimes colour using spray paint. I have also tried working on coloured acrylic backgrounds. There is no regulated process, I collect second hand books, cut out images that interest me and then spend hours arranging and re arranging them until a composition appears that I am happy with. With regard to the ‘sharp and refined’ look but I guess this look comes from my choice of material and lay out, I like bold, graphic imagery and pattern and often combine these in geometrical and symmetrical compositions.
O: I’ve read you describe yourself as being a bit of a magpie, in regards to your collecting of items and inspirations. Do you search after specific items to flesh out your existing ideas, or do the pieces you find inform the work that you make from them?
RE: I generally look for colour illustrated books about science, nature, history or crafts. Older books from the 70s or 80s or even earlier often have more interesting imagery. Sometimes the books are very informative and I spend time reading them, a good haul of images often changes the direction of my work in terms of its aesthetics. Generally the work is informed by the things I collect not the other way around.
O: The backgrounds of some of your pieces are bright to the point of being fluorescent, whilst others feature more gently colourful gradients. Do you draw those colours out from parts of the collage, or do you build on top of them?
RE: I love bright and fluorescent colours, mostly I create these backgrounds first and then work on top of them. Any more subtle use of colour probably results from me making a special effort to tone it done a bit for other peoples enjoyment.
O: Could you tell us a little bit about ‘Analog Dreams’?
RE: This is my first australian show, it is a collection of bold and fun contemporary collage with a kitsch and colourful, retro futurist aesthetic. I would like people to enjoy the work and take their own narrative away with them.
O: Some of the ideas present in the show, such as environmental concerns for the future and the potential problems posed by fast moving technologies, feel quite political. What inspired you to explore those themes?
RE: I don’t see the work as directly political, its more of a celebratory and optimistic narrative of both the past and future. I like to read and watch 50’s and 60’s science fiction as well as fantasy and amine; I’m interested in science and different ways in which (wo)man interacts with his or her environment. I am fascinated with the idea of utopia because I’m an escapist, I want to be transported through my work to another world.
O: Was ‘Analog Dreams’ inspired by any other art, in particular? Because it feels like there’s a bit of British Pop Art in there, and maybe a little Precisionism?
RE: I love pop art, op art and retro psychedelic art as well as vintage fashion and design. Im also inspired by contemporary graphic design and visual communication.
O: What are some of the materials you’ve used in ‘Analog Dreams’? And are they all found, or do you create some of the elements yourself?
RE: most of the elements are found or bought second hand, I dislike waste and feel a little bit uncomfortable buying ‘new’ things in general. I feel like there is plenty of material already circulating in the world and it is not necessary to compound this with needless consumption, particularly within the art world. However I like to use spray paint sometimes to alter or add to the colours used in my work
O: What’s next for you?
RE: whatever the future holds in its hands, probably more collages.
Rachael’s new show Analog Dreams opens at Off the Kerb on February 26th, from 6 – 9pm. The show runs from the 25th of February through to March 11th. Off the Kerb gallery is located at 66B Johnston Street in Collingwood, and is open from 12:30pm to 6pm Thursday – Friday, and 12pm to 5pm on Saturday + Sunday.
You can find more information about the gallery at their website: offthekerb.com, and you can see more of Rachael Edwards’ work at cargocollective.com/rachaeledwards or on Instagram @rachaeledwards__.