The whole world – one big collage. We encounter collages in kindergarten, when the teacher forces us to cut out pictures, at school we seal the walls of the room with posters and pages from magazines. Facebook feed is inevitably filled with collages.
All visual objects are collages. Starting from the albums of your favorite musicians and ending with the patchwork trendy this season – a mixture of textures and materials in one product (a collage of fabrics, in other words). With the development of technology (the advent of Xerox, and then Photoshop), collages have firmly entered our lives, and often we don’t even notice how much art surrounds us in everyday life.
Together with the Ukrainian model Alina Fanta, we decided to delve into the history of collages. Alina worked in Paris, Milan, Tokyo, Singapore and Hong Kong, participated in the shows of Jimmy Choo and Vetements, starred for lookbooks of Ukrainian and foreign brands. In addition, Alina wants to publish a travel book with photo collages. Her photographs served as an ideal base for collages created in the style of artists who worked in this technique. We talk about five of them.
Kurt Schwitters is called the “king of collages.” The German artist was the first to use collage techniques to create an object of art (although Picasso fans often dispute this fact). Schwitters experimented with Dada, Surrealism and Constructivism, was fond of poetry and music, and also published his own magazine. But most of all, he is known for a series of works by Merz: collages created from improvised objects.
At the beginning of the twentieth century, artists experimented with the very meaning of art. Just then, Marcel Duchamp signed the urinal with his name and called it an art object, laying the foundation for modern art, as we know it today. Artists were no longer limited to oil paints – that is why they considered newspapers, household items and accidentally found rubbish as potential material for paintings. Different textures on the same plane created a new vision for a new era of art.
Geniuses think alike. While Schwitters worked on collages in Berlin, Pablo Picasso and his colleague Georges Braque were preparing the Cubist revolution in Paris. It's no secret that cubism began with collages. Chaotic paintings created from newspaper clippings and a tube of acrylic paint, became the basis for the future “Avignon girls” by Picasso and four periods of cubism. Collages for the artist became a “rehearsal” before a big career.
Maria Shelia Miani
With the development of pop culture, collages become the main visual message. On the pages of gloss, which used to be the material for collages, these same collages appeared instead of illustrations and single photographs. Fashion penetrates art at all levels – it is this idea that the artist Maria Shelia Miani develops. In her works, models and bloggers appear in paintings by impressionists and in the workshops of contemporary artists. One of her last series is the fashion editor Leandra Medin on the canvases of the surrealist Rene Magritte.
If you go deeper, memes are the same collages, if you consider them in the plane of the culture of entertainment, not art.
Artist Haye Riley made his career with his ironic collages combining fashion brands with celebrity photos. In 2018, Riley jokingly combined the Fendi logo with the Fila sports brand. Sylvia Venturini Fendi, creative director of the Italian fashion house, noticed the work and ended up with a real collaboration of the two brands. Things from the 2019 Fendi spring collection became one of the best-selling items, and Riley made a profitable business out of fashion memes.
Digital artist Freddy Smithson is just as ironic over the fashion industry. He wears Meryl Streep, Victoria Beckham and Donald Trump in tracksuits in the spirit of the post-Soviet 90s, and Kim Kardashian suggests returning to the beloved velor from Juicy Couture, which she wore in zero. Freddy creates alternative versions of advertising campaigns: for example, with British politicians (including Queen Elizabeth in Balenciaga) and celebrities (Burberry B Series with Beyoncé in the lead role).
A model business is the same mixture of experience and skills as textures in collages. We talked with Alina about her experience, rhythm of life and the secrets of success in the modeling business.
Alina, how did you come to modeling?
My modeling career began very unexpectedly. Honestly, I never thought that I could work as a model, and I didn’t want to. At my first casting, I came for a company with a friend, and they chose me, but I believe that there are no accidents in life. Although everyone around told me since childhood: "Tall, thin! You will be a model!"
Please tell us about your first model trip.
I am 18. I am without knowledge of English, with one travel bag, wearing pink glasses, standing at the airport and waiting for a flight to Zurich. To say that it was scary is to say nothing. When I flew to another country, the first thing I started to learn languages: German and English.
At first everything went well, there was a lot of work: shows, exhibitions, photo shoots. But then everything gradually began to change.
The work was getting smaller, the salary was delayed, and I decided to break the contract. This first trip taught me independence and awareness, now I remember it as an adventure. When you are guided by a dream, then fears, ups and downs go by the wayside.
You have been working in Asia for a long time. Please tell me how Asian countries differ from each other? What work awaits models from Europe there?
I worked in Asia for 3 years. She lived in Japan, China, South Korea and Hong Kong.
I call Japan love at first sight. I still have very tender feelings for her. I have not been there for a year now, and I miss you very much.
Each of these countries has its own specifics of work. Take China and Hong Kong as an example – although this is formally one country, but in reality there are two different worlds in which the work process has cardinal differences. In China, I had exclusively shootings for clothing catalogs. When it's hot, they took off a collection of coats, and in the terrible cold – light summer things.
In Japan, there were very diverse shootings: catalogs, promotional videos, there was even an advertisement for clothes for pregnant women – they put on a special plastic tummy for me.
The most comfortable thing for me is working in Hong Kong, where you can chat with everyone and exchange contacts. Locals speak fluent English.
Hong Kong is my second home, Asians live here with a European mentality and way of thinking. In Hong Kong, I starred for the advertising of a shopping mall, which still has a banner with my photo – this is very nice.
What is the difference between Asia and Ukraine and other European countries?
The rhythm of life in Asian cities is frantic. Tokyo and Hong Kong are nonsleeping anthills. Even I have a feeling of fatigue from such a pace of life. In fact, I manage to take a break from him only when I come home to Ukraine, and this is very rare. But I madly love Asian turmoil! Don’t feed bread, let’s stay in such a place. It seems to me that I live more like that, I feel busy and necessary than with a measured life. And let everyone call it crazy, I call it simple and really miss this crazy pace of life when I am away from Asia.
You participated in the shows of Jimmy Choo and Vetements, starred for Asian brands. What about Ukrainian fashion?
Ukraine is a very modern country, and it seems to me that over time Ukrainian designers and brands will be recognizable and quite competitive with world and European clothing manufacturers. Domestic brands are becoming more wearable. I will say more: after visiting Ukrainian Fashion Week in September, things from Ukrainian designers appeared in my wardrobe.
What is the most difficult model to work with?
This, of course, is not the hardest job in the world. But not the easiest, as it seems to many. It requires constant adaptation, stamina, the ability to get out and survive. You get tired of it – after all, it is an industry of vanity, complexes and money. This is no longer about art or beauty. But life outside this world begins to seem unbearably boring and routine. Therefore, it’s difficult to leave. Sometimes it seems to me that I hate everything that is connected with the fashion world. But then I stop, because I owe him a lot: I lived in a variety of cities and countries, I saw the most incredible places in which I would not otherwise have been. I met people whom I didn’t even dream of meeting. Sometimes I have the feeling that I have already lived several very different lives in one. Of course, I really lack the feeling of home, confidence, a sense of belonging. But this is the flip side of a dream.
What qualities must a model have in order to succeed?
Everything is decided by the case. And nothing more. The rules of the modeling business are dictated by completely different model girls who are the most beautiful. And if you saw your copy in a glossy magazine, this does not mean that you will become a superstar. Today some canons of beauty, tomorrow others.
There are many girls from the backwoods who simply fit in the image, in the purity of their innocent eyes, to the designer who was looking for it. This is the case. A girl becomes a supermodel, because her external data and professionalism are suitable for specific designers.
Another thing is that thanks to television and gloss, the desire to be a model today has turned into a mania. Girls strive to enter the podium without asking themselves the question: who needs it?
All successful models have grace, they are actresses. It is very important. Unfortunately, in most cases this happens: the model ran along the catwalk, and then asks the designer: “How am I to you?” But the designer doesn’t care! Good models should not ask – they carry clothes, they are actresses. They play either a silent slave, or someone else. This is what the designer needs. And if the appearance, say, can still be created, then the question arises: why, for whom? If the model is a bad actress, then nobody needs her.
Share your plans for the future?
I could laugh it off with Woody Allen’s famous aphorism: “If you want to make God laugh, tell him about your plans.” But I will say this: I plan to love, to be loved, to expand my family and that everything would be fine with loved ones. There are some achievable goals, but this is not out loud.
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