The process of collage

Essay by Madelaine Levy

Lynn Hatzius’s collage work is the result of a magical journey. Her themes and subjects have often traveled from the tip of an old master’s brush many centuries ago before being reproduced by a printing press in more modern, yet distant, times. Once in printed form, they may linger on a bookseller’s shelf. Perhaps they are rediscovered, for a short moment, in the eyes of a curios beholder. Only to be, once again, forgotten in a seldom-used library. All this before eventually finding their way into Hatzius’s own collection of printed matter. A constantly changing treasure trove of material, new and old, stumbled upon in charity shops, bookstores, or flea market stalls. Once there, it can take years before these same themes, and images, are awakened and recreated by the mesmerising process, which is the creation of a collage.

The first step in the process: The search. Eyes wide open, hands gently shifting, Hatzius goes through her shelves, boxes and piles. Absorbed by the quest, she flicks through an old album of tattered photographs. She notices a page in a rare book. Coughs as dust flies off the pages of an old magazine... Finally, after a long search, as instinctive as it is intense, she has found what she did not know that she was looking for. A tiny segment of an image here… an even smaller piece there. Fragments ready to be released from their surroundings and joined with other lost treasures.

Step two: the sorting. The destructive phase. As pages are cut and images are set lose, the associative chains of the original material are broken. Instead of communication – books and magazines, bound and printed in perfect order – these bits are now a whirlwind of possibilities, a vast pool of components waiting to be reassembled into new compositions. The small parts of a future whole.

Finally: the assemblage. The meeting of pure chance and a carefully disorganised subconscious. The surprising, almost magical, juxtaposition of visual elements from seemingly unrelated contexts. Here, the energising strength of the collage process comes into full force. The discarded scraps, whose history is long forgotten, unveil new images, previously hidden in the originals. Out of the rupture, new associations are created.

For Lynn Hatzius, the journey ends there. With a new flow of images, and a new whole. But her works, and her process, say something different. These overlooked images, entered into a new chain of association, remind us of the fact that everything we perceive and engage in already exists in some form. And that we all have the possibility to crate new shapes, new meaning – and to make the old world our own.

Madelaine Levy is the literary editor at Svenska Dagbladet, Stockholm, Sweden