Our sister gallery in London, Lawrence Alkin Gallery, is currently awash with the cool collage aesthetic of two of our favourite artists, Maria Rivans and Bonnie and Clyde. ‘Super Vision’, their first collaborative exhibition, is a magnificent celebration of alternate realities, fantastical other-worlds and voyeuristic adventures. Maria Rivans and Bonnie and Clyde kindly took the time to talk us through their spectacular visions...
Bonnie and Clyde and Maria Rivans are both known for their mastery of collage, colour and composition. Interestingly, the two contemporary artists discovered and admired each other’s work before they ever actually met each other. Now they get on famously! “We’ve always had a mutual respect”, explains Bonnie and Clyde. “I think we have similar interests”, adds Maria, “we have similar taste in music; we respect similar artists.”
‘Super Vision’ is their first joint show and although they have worked together on many aspects, from the title to the graphics, “we didn’t plan around each other” discloses Bonnie and Clyde. Both artists worked on their own pieces separately and it wasn’t until they came together that the overlapping themes became apparent. No doubt their complimentary visions are a consequence of their similar interests and their shared medium, collage. “We both use collage but in very different ways,” Maria acknowledges.
The overarching themes of the exhibition include Pop culture, film and television. The title and the exhibition graphic, which Bonnie and Clyde created by blending her work with Maria’s to form a suitably surreal and retro television set, both reference the hypnotic phenomenon that is television. “I’ve always used TVs in my work – so have you”, says Maria to Bonnie and Clyde. “I’ve taken pictures from TVs a lot”, she replies. Bonnie and Clyde explains how she knew that she wanted to do a piece of furniture for this show, to return to her 3D design background, and that she had started thinking about the idea of TV dinners and the TV as a piece of furniture.
The television is a magnificent metaphor for ‘Super Vision’. The TV set is both a physical object and a magical window into a multitude of two dimensional visions. The static box transports you into parallel universes, forwards and backwards in time, and positions you as the observer interpreting imagery, characters, and narrative. The work of Bonnie and Clyde and Maria Rivans similarly transports you into alternate realities, across continents, through time and into surreal landscapes with an intriguing cast of collaged characters. The journey is a thrilling adventure full colour, sparkle and philosophical thought!
The exhibition has been divided over Lawrence Alkin Gallery’s two floors, with Bonnie and Clyde’s work upstairs, Maria Rivans' below, and the staircase offering a superb combination of the two. Upstairs you can see brand new work by Bonnie and Clyde including, for the first time, sculpture and neon! The sculpture is a three-dimensional retro television set complete with a slowly moving screen which rotates a hypnotic cyclical collage. “I’d been thinking about doing it for a long time and it seemed to make sense for this show”, says Bonnie and Clyde. “To make the image work the whole way through was tricky”, but clearly incredibly successful because it’s a thoroughly captivating piece.
The majority of Bonnie and Clyde’s work stems from a trip she took to LA and a general feeling of wanderlust, “I fell in love with the Modernist houses in Venice Beach and the colours and vibe of the neighbourhood.” However, she is also presenting her very first depiction of London in ‘High Life High Wire’, an original mixed media collage on wood with neon and screen-print. Even though Bonnie and Clyde has spent a lot of time in London, living there as a student, she confesses “I think I treated it again like an observer; like a visitor.” With her cool and discerning detachment she depicts the South Bank, sky scrapers piercing the clouds, a vivid blue hot tub, and a missing plane. Like the typerope walker the elevated city appears equally spectacular and perilous. We can only wonder where climbing the glittering neon ladder with our ‘jackpots’ will take us...
Bonnie and Clyde cleverly creates thought-provoking landscapes and scenes rich with intrigue throughout the show – will the woman answer the phone in ‘Will Call’? She explains how each piece has “Different layers of meaning. I think you can see different things on different days.” Her keen interests in architecture and psychogeography (the emotional response to a building or place) are easily discernible, as is her continuing fascination with street photography, but there are also subtle and sensitive layers of humour, grit and romance.
In the collage ‘Life’ you can spot a photograph of a couple in colourful jackets. The photograph is a perfect example of Bonnie Clyde’s ability to poignantly capture the beauty and idiosyncrasies of people and cities. “They were looking at the car park with their backs to the ocean,” remembers Bonnie and Clyde, “I use a lot of my photos in my work. I travel and take snapshots of life from the streets that I'm visiting.” At ‘Super Vision’ we see these snap shots coming together to form joyful and profound visions.
The work of Maria Rivans is similarly multifarious, “I think my work is humorous and frivolous when you first look at it. But when you look at it more you realise it’s more philosophical,” says Maria. Ostensibly downstairs at the Lawrence Alkin Gallery is brimming with beautiful Hollywood movie stars, extravagant headdresses, jewels, fauna, and surreal landscapes. On closer inspection you realise you have been drawn into Maria’s intricate and fascinating world of female inventors, explorers and scientists, Hitchcock characters and illuminated 19th century engravings.
“The fun element is an important element” explains Maria Rivans, but this new work also explores deeper themes such as feminism, psychology, and the nature of modern day news. ‘Ms Lovelace’, for example, is a fabulous portrait of Joan Collins with her big blue eyes but it is named after ‘Ada Lovelace’ who was the daughter of Lord Byron. “She wrote a science paper in 1943 that anticipated the development software called Ada”, explains Maria, “She became the first computer programmer.” Maria’s collages highlight and celebrate the diverse achievements women have made, both those that have been recognized on the silver screen and those which have been unjustly written out of history. “I feel empowered myself and I think it’s really coming through,” says Maria.
Much of Maria’s imagery stems from her childhood, “growing up with my mum watching black and white films.” “I loved sci-fi”, she explains. English film director Alfred Hitchcock has been a major influence on her work for the show. Several pieces such as ‘Bodega Bay’, ‘Brilliant Minds I’ and ‘Victims of Circumstance’ are inspired by Hitchcock’s iconic 1963 film ‘The Birds’. “I’ve been playing at re-writing scripts and re-creating characters”, says Maria, highlighting the strong narrative nature of her new work.
The intricacy and technical skill involved in Maria’s collages is astonishing. “I collect things and often the things I find will direct my pieces”, she discloses when discussing her method of appropriating sourced vintage ephemera. The sources for ‘Super Vision’ vary from 1940’s French magazines, to 60’s and 70’s educational pamphlets and an 1883 engraving. She discovered illustrations of gem stones in a vintage magazine which led to her original paper collage ‘Stella.’ “I think it comes from when I was jeweller”, says Maria reflecting on her attraction to the gems and her habit of collecting and archiving printed treasures.
‘Super Vision’ sees both artists pushing collage to exciting new heights, from Bonnie and Clyde’s textural visions on wood, to Maria’s intricate visions in paper and diamond dust. This exhibition is a delightful invitation to stop and view our beautiful, joyful and idiosyncratic world as seen through the eyes of two talented and philosophical artists. Turn off your TV and get down there!