Photography Arts | Field Notes |

December 5, 2019

Conceptual Art Practice | Materials | Centrepiece construction


Making the centrepieces required some forethought. My initial idea was to make a kind of oblong bundle with a cloth base onto which I could collage my image fragments. As I thought through what I wanted from the artwork and the materials I would use, my ideas started to take shape.

I would need to make an oblong object in the same proportions as my background image. My artistic references research helped me decide that binding it all together with strings would be an effective way of holding the collage together, at least visually. I liked the idea of the strings segmenting and dividing the piece like separate compartments of the mind, and the implied tension the strings would bring.

I wanted the strings to slightly squash the shape where they bound the edges and this led me to consider making an upholstered board. I determined therefore that the base for the collages would be a rigid board, with cloth covering it and stuffing or padding inside to give it a slightly rounded shape. I had participated in some experiments with Cotton Duck and Liquid Light, so this cloth seemed like an obvious choice for a starting point.

I first thought of leaving the cotton base plain and building the collaged paper pieces on top with glue, but I wanted to build the base boards first before I refined the exact details of the collage making. I didn't feel the need to try to plan the collage too much in advance, preferring to let the material pieces and the tactile and exploratory process of collage dictate the final treatment.

Having run through these thoughts in my note book (example pages below) and examined the available construction materials in my local hardware store (images below), I settled on the construction requirements for the centrepieces as follows:

  • Base board strong enough not to bend when bound and upholstered
  • Base board strong and thick enough to fix cotton duck to
  • Fixings on the back for hanging on wall (preferably 'floating')
  • A slightly rounded appearance
  • Flat enough not to distort the collage too much
  • Flat enough to be evenly lit when photographed
  • Strong fixings on the back to loop string around easily during making
  • Robust enough to last and be moveable
Identifying hanging fixings that would 'float' the centrepieces for display

Visual notes taken when researching building materials

MDF is cheap but heavy and I felt too soft to anchor staples firmly

I wanted baseboards that wouldn't bend or warp over time

Chipboard not strong enough to anchor staples. 12mm exterior ply seemed ideal.

Identifying construction materials

Notes on sizing of base boards slightly smaller than previous estimates because of the limit of enlarger head travel

More notes on sizing and lighting

Construction details and materials for making the centrepieces

Further construction planning in detail

Visualising the finished object and listing the materials and tools

Consideration of collage methods

Collage fixing considerations

The main breakthrough in this step was to identify that there was no need to glue my collages together and that I could place my materials pieces onto a cotton duck base with strings and pins. This meant a re-positionable and non-destructive treatment was possible. I had also elected to try to print the large base cloths before upholstering. This way I could match the collage against the background image and would always have a base image showing where otherwise there might be gaps in the collage. It was the nature of the padded upholstered boards that suggested that pins might be a good fixing method—construction materials shaping the collage method.

Building the boards

The build took longer than anticipated for various reasons including need to drill the ends of the machine screws for the wire on the back. Apart from that fairly straightforward.

Drilling holes in the machine screw ends to accommodate the garden wire for tying off the strings

Compensating for the curved surface making the printed cotton duck cover less

The base board shape

Fixings for the wire featuring penny washers both sides for strength and double nuts to lock in place

Stapling the wadding to the 12mm ply base board with 8mm staples

The board covered in wadding before the cotton duck layer was applied

Starting to stretch the printed cotton duck onto the board, held in place with staples

Adding the hanging fixings

Completing the upholstery

The finished base board with cotton duck print stretched over the wadding

Liquid Light printed collage pieces ready to go

Beginning to collage

Next steps

With the base boards built it was a matter of collaging all four centrepieces and then photographing them again, securing the image fragments with pins and strings before photographing them again.

Download PDF
Download PDF