In conversation with

Collage artist Derek Gores at Hotel Bel-Air

February 01, 2020

Best known for creating unique collages from recycled magazines, internationally-renowned collage artist Derek Gores delights in puzzles and playfulness. Discover his secrets and find out how to meet the man himself at Hotel Bel-Air.

What interests you about collage?

When I started out as a young artist it was all about photorealism, the idea of reproducing exactly what I saw. When I got to grips with the possibilities of abstract art and discovered the intricacies of collage there was no turning back. Each scrap of paper I pick up brings a history with it, and combines with all the others to form a new image, hinting at a new story. A scrap added at the end can change everything, which is a very exciting way to work.

What’s the starting point for each piece?

I slowly gather reference photographs featuring a figure, space or object then deconstruct them digitally by playing around with different textures. I often include song lyrics of something I’m listening to, plus images of things that mean something to me like a favourite toy or a map of a memorable place.

What is your biggest inspiration?

For as long as I can remember I’ve been in love with figurative art. My heroes are Egon Schiele and Gustav Klimt. In my own work I like to feature the idea of feminist superheroes who are strong, wise and unapologetic. I aim to capture the buzzing life of a living being and to hint at elapsed time.

What’s the thinking behind your work?

I like to tease the senses by showing one image from afar but then up close it melts into hundreds of little glimpses, or little memories as I like to think of them. I stand on the shoulders of what the Surrealists and Dadaists did by embracing chance and serendipity. Each piece of paper adds to an optical puzzle. I have one rule: I can’t use pictures of the subject to make the subject. So, no hair to make hair, no skin to make skin, etc. This forces me to always be creative.

Art is storytelling and can supercharge things by making a feeling tangible in a way that words cannot

How do you create your artworks?

Using an acrylic medium and a simple brush, I cover a canvas with images from magazines using colours and texture that appeal to me. Next I cut up or rip the printed digital parts, somewhat blindly, and glue them down. After intuitively adding more details from magazines I step back and assess, aiming for a sweet spot where the art is recognisable yet pleasantly confusing as well. To finish, I add a UV protectant varnish and then it’s ready to hang.

What can we see at the exhibition?

Hotel Bel-Air is infinitely inspiring for an artist, with the beautiful history pulsing through the air so I’m really excited to host my next exhibition there (February 6 – March 29). I’m also very honoured to be their first artist in residence. The exhibition will be a diverse mix of my work and touch on travel, curiosity and style.

Our Derek Gores exhibition ran at Hotel Bel-Air from February 6 – March 29. A selection of pieces including a large canvas remain on display in the lobby, do come along and take a look.

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