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Student work: Elizabeth Venn - The Open College of the Arts
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Student work: Elizabeth Venn

In this blog post I am going to discuss the work of Elizabeth Venn, a textiles Foundations student. The work I am sharing is from part 2: Collage. Liz’s work stands out for many reasons which I shall outline in this article. Collage has been used as an artform for many years but when students approach it during their studies it can feel like something children do so has little value or skill. However there is a surprising amount of dexterity and technical skill required working with small pieces of sticky paper. In textiles collage is used primarily as a form of drawing either to develop ideas or plan designs so it is worth mastering.
Liz sent a range of collaged works based around the title “time for tea,” she used her knowledge as a painter to create vivid and delightful pieces. What I noticed first is her canny choice and use of papers, mainly from magazines. She used the tones, textures and painterliness of the pages to create depth and form in what can often be flat depictions. The angles from which she chose to look at her objects added to their depth, for example seeing the teapot from its base or lying on its side with the lid rolling away. I particularly like the way she used papers of slightly different tones to signify the depression in a bowl and the curve of a handle. During her tutorial Liz described to me how in one collage created with lines she ended up placing them inaccurately but instead of starting over she added more lines which gave the work a looser feel, like a sketch.

Inspired by Matisse Liz painted some of her own papers but instead of creating the flat colour of a Matisse collage she experimented with replicating the more painterly surfaces she enjoyed in the magazine pages. This allowed the student to up the scale of her work and have more control of the colour palette. She confessed to having to force herself to create work at a large scale. Even though she was using large paper Liz was finding that the imagery remained around A4 size. To combat this she made herself create a single object, a cup on a piece of A3, which was technically quite a challenge as she used multiple lines of paper to form edges and surfaces.
During the exercise Liz remained thoughtful about negative space, understanding that the empty spaces are part of her compositions.  In a couple of pieces she filled the negative space with other imagery, playing with texture and tone. This she said was not particularly easy to manage the fore and background. For me her most innovative work is where Liz has appeared to let the surface paper slip under the paper that forms the edge of the object.  Here the understanding of paint and its fluidity has been translated into torn and cut papers.

The Foundations Textiles course is a great place to develop skills in preparation for undergraduate study or to learn new skills for the love of it. Thank you to Liz for allowing me to share your work and I look forward to seeing more.

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Posted by author: Rebecca Fairley
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