art on tuesdays

art for lifelong learning

understanding collage

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This week I was involved in a professional development day for educators at Heide Museum of Modern Art. The program was called Understanding Collage and our group of educators varied from ELC to adult education. After coffee and introductions in the Sidney Myer Education Centre (SMEC) we walked over to Heide I and were introduced to the exhibition ‘Collage: The Heide Collection’ by curator Lesley Harding.  Lesley discussed some of the earlier works in the exhibition, including two collages by Sidney Nolan c 1939. We talked about the practice of collage in relation to the development of Modern Australian Art .

Screen Shot 2013-09-29 at 3.06.16 PM

Next we were fortunate enough to have Elizabeth Gower discuss her work ‘Prismatic’ an incredible nine panel collage that wraps around the wall from the lounge room to the kitchen in Heide I. The intricately cut collages create a layer of ordered pattern from found materials such as packaging and advertising materials. Elizabeth has created subtle colour gradations from panel to panel to form a rainbow-like effect . The group was fascinated by Elizabeth’s working methods as she described how she has been collecting paper for decades and collates these into colour groups in her studio to use for the creation of her collages.


Nick Selenitsch also engaged the group, in a conversation about contemporary art practice and how he uses collage within his own practice and as an educator. Nick incorporates sporting motifs and iconography to form intricate patterns and designs in his mixed media collages and paintings.

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We headed up the hill to Heide II to explore ‘The Sometimes Chaotic World of Mike Brown’, a nice tangent from the exhibition in Heide II where some of Mike Brown’s collages are on display. In Heide I the retrospective of MB’s oeuvre unfolds through the house and includes his many experimental works across vast media; screen printing, sculpture, stenciling, painting…


Mike Brown Lullaby in the Twilight Zone, 1965

I facilitated a Visual Thinking Strategies (VTS) session with the group looking at MB’s ‘Lullaby in the Twilight Zone’.

VTS is a method I have been using to discuss artworks with groups of students. It is a thinking routine that engages the group of viewers in a discussion of the artwork guided by the questions:

What’s going on in this artwork?

What do you see that makes you say that?

What more can we find?

VTS is an enquiry based learning activity that encourages critical thinking. I have found it creates wonderful rich discussions around artworks where the group constructs an understanding of the artwork. What do you see that makes you say that? asks viewers to find the visual evidence in the artwork and draws the group into closer observations and deeper discussions.

more info on VTS

After lunch it was time to do some making! I ran a workshop for our group of educators reflecting on all of the collages we had been inspired by at Heide. I introduced some collage artists that I have found students to be especially excited by and shared some lesson plans for different age groups. One of which I have attached here. JUNK MAIL collages is a great project that can be adapted to suit all ages. The materials are simple – collect some junk mail from your letterbox for a week – the best stuff is the supermarkets cheap advertising materials. The project can work as a starting point for a Visual Arts unit or could be incorporated into another explorations, such as Sustainability.

I have found that the nature of making a collage is really freeing for students. For senior students who are working independently, a collage lesson can be really useful. It might be that they need an idea to get started on for their folio or are feeling stuck with a folio that they have been working on for awhile.

For all students undertaking a collage I think that the objective is for them to work intuitively with the materials. And the results are amazing…


collage 1


collage 3

collage 2


Author: Carly Grace

I am an artist and art educator. I work in schools and art galleries and museums, showing people how art can be a part of their lives.

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