To build an entire reality out of pieces and fragments which used to belong to another world is a new mode of art in expressing and creating. Belgian artist Sammy Slabbinck fuses random elements of old and new images and techniques to compose a middle earth of the then and now.
How did you get started with collage and mixed media art?
I started collecting vintage magazines a long time ago just because I liked the look of them. Later on in my life I set up my own postcard company and I started using these found images to make my very first collages. I haven’t stopped creating since.
We’re curious to know how you put images together. Where do you get your images? Does the layering happen before or on a computer? How much effort goes into one collage?
Most images I use come from my collection of vintage magazines and books. I make original collages on paper with the actual paper images and digital illustrations with scanned images. Making the original work is much more gratifying but also more complex and can take a long time to get the image right. When you work with digital images you have much more options regarding scale and layering. Sometimes an idea pops up and can’t be done with the original image so then I complete the collage digitally. I love doing both actually.
What visual principle do you follow in juxtaposing various images in one work?
There are no real rules. That’s the beauty of making collages, anything goes. A certain kind of complex simplicity is what I usually aim for.
Do you consider yourself a surrealist? Do you identify with this movement?
That is a label I often get. I do identify with that movement but times have changed a lot since the early surrealists started working. Time to set up a new surrealistic movement.
What other art forms inform your work?
I get influenced by a lot of different things. Mainly paintings, movies, music, books.
What do you want to express with these collages? Are you open to other people’s interpretations of your work?
It’s almost never a real goal to express a message. It’s probably more of an underlying statement I try to make, provoking people to make them think and reconsider things. The things I see in my work can differ a lot from what other people see. Personal interpretation of art is the whole essence I think. To make the work your own and have a personal emotional connection to an artwork.
Your work requires a curator’s eye and intuition. How did you hone yours?
All comes from experimenting I guess. The more you work at something the better the choices you start to make. Ever tried, ever failed. No matter. Try again and fail better—this quote from S.Beckett says it all.
What makes photographs readily applicable to collage art?
Without photography there would be no collage art. Is a difficult marriage with many kids.
It’s a curious thing how social media and the digitization of media have made vintage photography more visible again. What’s your take on this? What makes it interesting to modern artists like you?
In a way there is so much source material now. All the images made in the past decades are floating around ready to be picked up. A lot of these vintage magazines weren’t considered for a long time but to me they are my primary source material. They are what paint is to a painter.
Is an old photo more compelling in print format though?
No, not really. But an original picture will always have that extra quality.
You work a lot with existing pictures. Does this affect what images attract you outside of your own work—ultimately what you find beautiful? Whom do you consider great photographers?
By looking at images almost on a daily basis you train your eyes and I can spot good photography easier now I guess. But nice pictures can come from any source. The great names or just a kid with a Lomo camera. It’s all about composition and storytelling for me. Great photographers to me remain the classic names like Helmut Newton, Cartier-Bresson, Man Ray, Robert Longo etc.
What is the advantage of having your work online? What’s the difference when your work is mounted on gallery walls?
Showing your work online gives you the possibility to reach a larger audience. It can easily be shared. Hopefully when people discover my work online they will want to come a see the real work offline.
What projects do you have lined up?
Working on several things at the moment. Creating a supplement for an international magazine, making an album cover and some stop motion projects are coming up.