Sammy Slabbinck (born 1977, Belgium) creates dynamic surrealist contemporary collage reminiscent of the great Jacques Prévert. Found magazine images are decontextualized and re-appropriated as Slabbinck plays with scale and juxtaposition. The context is often mid-Atlantic and mid-twentieth century and the images pay homage to the genius of the great 70’s powerhouse of brain food that was Hipgnosis. Using humour as a visual tool Slabbinck choreographs compositions, meditating on the absurdity of popular consumerist culture, both past and present. Often witty but at the same time foreboding and dark, Slabbinck deft hand creates a unique signature that is definitely his own. (Biography taken from www.michaelhoppengallery.com.) The artwork I will be analysing today is the featured image in this blog post from a collage collection that show different environments layered on top of portraits. My first impression of this work is that unlike other montage artists, slabbinck montages images that create visual illusions or disorientation.
This work has been created through using using photography and seems as if there is a combination of both digital and film photography. The background portraits seem as they are film enlargements due to the quality of them being slightly less that the environment images, they are slightly grey and grainy but I think slabbinck has done this purposefully to give the work a retro look. The foreground images of environments are digital and may have some element of film as some parts of the image is grey and grainy however we also see brightly coloured parts of the image that are good quality which leads me to believe the artwork as a whole is a montage of film and digital images. I think each artwork is created using three or four different images that are a mixture of film and digital. There is an equal balance of film and digital in each of the artworks. The work is arranged through layers, the background layer always being a portrait, a layer above that being an environment and the foreground layer being a road or bridge of some sort. The work is positioned so that we almost always see the portrait in the background and the foreground layer links with the background portrait in some way or another. This means that the main focus in the work tends to be in the centre, usually where the foreground meets the portrait.
In terms of interpretation I think that the montaging of environments and portraits is supposed to represent disorientation in someone’s environment or being unsatisfied as the environment. The reason for this belief is that there is not just one environment but many which can show confusion or lack of identity. I also believe it is highlighting displacement perhaps in personality or environment. Because some of the images contain more environments than others it can also show belonging or being associated with more than one place. The images being a combination of film and digital can signify the past and present coming together and perhaps someone’s past memories and their present self with the environments being significant to them.It can also show an element of being stuck in the past and not being able to let go of certain places. I also think that the surrealism of the work is highlighting a person’s imagination or creative mind and this is an artistic expression of their thoughts. In a way the work is almost childlike in its surrealism and can be showing the utterly imaginative mind of a child. The colours of the images as a whole pay homage to the past and the work as a whole has a very vintage look to it which is iconic to Slabbinck style. I think the overall meaning of this work however is to describe disorientation in one’s environment and identity.
Throughout these images there are many similarities, the main being that they both contain portraits and environments on top of the portraits. The differences of these images are that they both use different images for both the portraits and the environment which can be used to show individuality. We don’t see this type of montage with many other photographers and Slabbinck work is unique in the sense that is it very abstract and has an element of surrealism. Although surrealism is something tried by many artists and photographers, Slabbinck uses surrealism in environments.
This artwork is exploring distortion of environments and surrealism using environments. It is showing the significance of environments to people and the idea of belonging in an environment. Environment is a crucial component of Slabbinck work as many of his work feature environments and the way they are distorted to create surrealism. I will attempt to recreate work inspired by this style of work and create my own montages using digital and film photography.