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  • Deviprasad C Rao

Rediscovering the artist within through collage art

Updated: Jul 19


Collage is a technique used in China since the time paper was discovered. History of last 2000 years indicates that the technique was used across the world in several ways and forms. However, it emerged as a serious art form since Picasso and Braque started using collages in their paintings. As a result, during the Modern Art era, the technique took a shape of an Art form as many artists tried their hand in collages as part of their paintings and sculptures. After going through transformations for few decades, today, in contemporary art scene collage art survives with traditional paper collages to emerging 3D, digital and many other forms.


It is an artist’s attempt, most of the time, that he or she wishes to arrive at one’s own visual language. They perpetually attempt to break the barriers of their knowledge and keep working like scientists during the process of creation to discover the newness. Many artists fail to meet their own expectations. But few after arduous creative hardship succeed in breaking their own sealing and achieve the freshness in their creation.

I have recently happened to come across such an artist who spent most part of his life researching and teaching Art and Art history discovered his own visual language that can thrill and surprise the viewer or any art lover. He is Potsdam (Germany) born - Jens J. Thiele (76).

Initially, he studied graphic art at the academy, then art history and art education at various universities. He did his PhD in art history on the subject of “relationship between art and film”. Jens worked as a professor for visual media at the University of Oldenburg, Germany. Due to his scientific work (lecturing, researching) he had not much time for his own artistic creations.

30 years later in 2003 Jens gave himself a new artistic beginning with working on Collage Art. The re-invention of his artistic self happened by chance. He saw the painting "Boy in a Black Dress" by the English painter John Kirby in London. He bought it as a postcard and one day he started to make a drawing of this painting. He was not satisfied with that and so he tried to create the figure of the boy with cut-out papers. That was the beginning of his second career – as a collage artist. Eventually, he answered to John Kirby’s painting with publishing of his first picture book in 2004, title “Jo im roten Kleid “ (Jo in red dress). Since then, collage art become his passionate and primary technique of expression.


Jens doesn’t use collage in a familiar and in traditional sense of gluing paper clips and creating necessary expressive composition. According to him, collages are created by confronting elements that do not fit together and create a surprising, surreal, provocative, or comic effect. That is also how collage art came into being in the early 20th century with artists like Hannah Hoech, Kurt Schwitters, Juan Gris and others.

His interest in collage goes in a completely different direction. He is fascinated by the painterly possibilities of the technique. He put scraps of paper together in such a way that it gives the effect of sculpture or painting to the output. Therefore, in every finished work of him each individual piece of paper still carries its own originality to it, so that there is always a moment of irritation and disturbance. His main inspiration is the material, the paper itself, which he finds in lifestyle magazines. What stimulates him is the different surfaces and structures of the found papers and tries to transform them into completely new pictorial contexts.


In the process there was light at the end of the tunnel, and he could realize his own visual language even though the path was long. Figurative art remains his main interest since his days of study. But the collage technique helped him to combine the figurative and tendencies of attractions to abstraction. Working with these two fields and the tension they create he developed his own style. However, he says the influence on his style of collage creation mainly comes from the painterly works of David Hockney, Francis Bacon and Lucian Freud.


However, it is not always a smooth ride for him in creating any work. Normally, he starts a new picture with a certain idea of the result. For example - a face should express melancholy, but it could happen that the expression slips away from him during the creative process and turns into completely another expression. To avoid this situation sometimes Jens, try hard and put a lot of time and energy into each work. But, from other hand, he also feels it is exciting to surrender sometimes to a new unwanted expression.

Jens says “my 'vision' as an artist is very simple. I want to touch the viewers of my works and give them the opportunity to see themselves and find reflections in my creations. Therefore, my primary intention is to evoke emotions in viewers”.

Even though Jens followed his artistic inclination to be an artist since his childhood, he took a different route to discover the true artist in himself. Initially he got trained to be an artist, but later took academic route to be in the midst of art scene instead of being a creator himself. But he gained immense knowledge during the process and shared it with hundreds of his students and watched them becoming artists. Eventually, when he retired from his academic life, he suddenly met the artist in him, again. Today he follows that artist within and works from his studio in Münster while keeping himself young at heart.



(Copyright 2021, Deviprasad C Rao. Author is an Artist, Curator, Writer & Artist Facilitator. Founder of Devamitra Artists Collective based in Zurich, Switzerland. He can be reached through his websitewww.deviprasad.com)

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