In conversation with Danish collage artist Lisbeth Søgård-Høyer.
Can you talk about your journey into or interest in the arts?
I’m educated as a graphic designer (in Copenhagen and London) and for many years I worked as a professional designer. I studied art history before graphic design and participated in several art projects in the beginning of my career as a designer.
For 12 years I was a co-owner of a medium-sized design consultancy, and since I sold my company I’ve worked as a teacher, an external critic, a mentor and a board member. Finally for the past years I’ve found back to my art interest and have worked as a collage artist. I exhibit in Denmark and sometimes abroad and in between I get commissions and makes collages for e.g. book covers.
Do you use a sketchbook? I’m interested in what a sketchbook means to you and your work?
I have always loved sketchbooks. However they didn’t play much of a role while I worked professionally as a graphic designer.
But the past 10-15 years I’ve used sketchbooks for pencil drawings, watercolors and the quick-collage-of the-day.
When I work on a collage for an exhibition, an actual ‘piece’, I also use my iPhone as a sketchbook. Taking photos is helpful. You see more clearly how things work when you scale them. I photograph different options and combinations and the camera makes me realize what works. Also it helps me remember, so often I return to an earlier state of the collage, because it worked better.
It’s difficult for me to decide when a piece is done, because I seldom have a plan or a goal, and therefore I don’t know when I’ve ‘arrived’.
Your work focusses on analogue collages. Can you talk about this, is the hands-on-nature of your work an important aspect?
Yes, I work only by hand.
At first it was because I simply couldn’t do computer work anymore due to a head-injury. Which is also why I sold my company. But then I realised how much I had missed the tactile look of handmade stuff, during all the years as a graphic-design-mac-enthusiast. I also do stop-motion-collages by hand, using iMovie or InShot on my iPhone.
I appreciate the odd angles, the natural shadows, the little mistakes that happens when you work by hand. I like to invite them in.
I have a dogma: ‘The power of the materials’, understood the way, that you can’t properly think solutions, you have to have hands-on, to touch, to try, to let the materials talk.
What themes do you try to explore through your work?
The relation between people, especially men and women, and women’s lives and positions. Age, ambiguity. Nature often plays a part, I’m very attached to nature and prefer being outside. But collages are made inside my house. I’m inspired by the da-da-movement and often refers to art history.
Can you talk about your process of working.
As mentioned I make many different combinations and versions of a collage and photograph them throughout the process.
I cut with a pair of scissors (Fiskars) or use a scalpel, and I have different sizes/models.
I keep all the stuff I cut out but have rejected for the current collage. I have a system of 6-8 cardboard boxes with themes, for example ‘people’, ‘building’, ‘food&fruit’, etc.
I cut from vintage books and magazines which I buy on flee markets or in second hand shops, I prefer books with uncoated paper.
Beside paper I have other boxes with junk-stuff, such as old tickets, pieces of metal, driftwood, plastic, letters, tiny toys etc. I have always collected these items and finally have found something to use them for.
How do you work, how often, is there a particular pattern?
I’m mostly productive when I have an exhibition coming up. And when I get a commission. In this case I do a lot of OTHER work, having a hard time getting on to THE actual job.
It’s often a particular photo that gets me started, it wants to “talk” to something else and then I start combining it with stuff from my boxes, and when that doesn’t work, I start cutting new pieces out.
I’m also greatly inspired by the mess on my desk; little pieces next to each other suddenly looks like ‘something’, and then it grows from there.
Inspiration also comes from Instagram. I follow many other artists and what they do, often gets me started, but often ends up somewhere else. I collect inspirational examples in IG’s collection-page.
I like to have colours to match, or particular shapes or lines to go together. I’m getting more and more occupied by composition, and work more abstract.
I often make a series with the same theme. Maybe it’s the graphic designer in me that forces me to show that I can do more that fits the same theme, that it was not just a lucky punch with one collage.
When I work I listen to podcasts or talk-radio. Time disappears.
There are also periods where I don’t do any work, maybe for months and I wonder if that was it? But suddenly something gets me going again.
Do you find the process of creating work relaxing or therapeutic? (I’ve become increasingly interested in the relationship of the sketchbook and the work to the artist).
Doing collage work by hand is mostly therapeutic. I’m happy when I do it. But always puzzled, not really understanding what is going on and when it’s done. When I get commissions it’s often frustrating because I have to communicate something particular because the years as graphic designer with demanding clients somehow made me a little allergic to demands…
But I guess that drawing in my sketchbook always will be there for me. I bring it when I go on holidays, and work made on these occasions makes me remember the places very clear, more than a photo I took.