Inspired by psychedelic memories of a magical childhood spent in Woodstock, New York, as well as by Science Fiction, Spirituality, David Lynch, and the paranormal, London-based collage artist Seana Gavin uses her vivid imagination to create surreal landscapes where nothing is as it seems.
For her exhibition ‘Heaven, Hell and Everywhere In Between’, currently on view at 3939shop gallery in Clerkenwell, Gavin has created two collages as the centre point of the show, one depicting an apocalyptic scene and the other featuring the Garden of Eden. Viewers are confronted with colorful, mind-bending Dadaist scenes that reflect the overload of imagery on the modern consciousness. “The rest of the work fits into the realm between Heaven and Hell,” says Gavin, who uses cuttings from an ever-expanding collection of books, magazines and folders stuffed with dated, found or ignored photographic imagery. “Whenever we open the newspaper we’re faced with natural disasters, war, fears of a disintegrating planet. It feels as if we are living on the edge of something not too far from Heaven and Hell.” i-D online recently caught up with Gavin to talk about her visual world.
What is it about collage that attracts you and helps you express your ideas? With collage I am never faced with the overwhelming blank canvas. I can immediately start putting imagery together on a page to see how things visually work together. I also enjoy working with the physicality of the paper. We are bombarded with imagery in the modern age, it’s endless! And added to that there’s the backlog of books and editorials from the past piling up around us. I like that with collage I can recycle old images and transform them into something completely different and fresh.
As a child, you spent time in Woodstock, New York. How has that experience influenced your work? Yes I spent my early formative years there. It was a magical place. It has a history of being a magnet for creatives and freethinking people. The small town was also dotted with psychedelic references, which have fed into my work. And the striking mountainous scenery surrounding it may have influenced my tendency towards creating landscapes- with a backdrop of rolling hills and mountains often being a recurring theme in my work. Woodstock was also built on an Indian Burial Ground. I heard there was a curse against ‘white man’ building on the land. As a result there has been strange phenomenon reported there for years, such as ghosts and U.F.O sightings. I have early memories of witnessing unexplainable things. Which is where my interest in the supernatural began.
How do you select the imagery that appears in your work? I start with an idea or theme in mind. I have an expanding collection of books, magazines and folders with cuttings that I’ll search through to find appropriate imagery. In particular I like to use more dated photographic imagery. I’m drawn to their exaggerated colours and their grainier look.
What is the meaning of the show’s title? At school I enjoyed Religious Studies because we were often asked to illustrate the Biblical stories. The Tower of Babel, Noah’s Arc, The Plagues, they were all so visual and fairytale like. And since then I grew to love the paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and Renaissance depictions of Heaven and Hell.
Are you a surrealist? I wouldn’t put myself in that box but there are sometimes surreal elements in my work. I share their interest in the subconscious mind and dreams. But I am more of an outsider then a Surrealist. The Surrealists experimented with intentionally strange combinations of image and object, a focus on Jung and Freud. I’m less concerned with the role of meaning within my strange combinations, the work is more a personal imaginative release. And there’s more a sense of narrative in my work.
What part does spirituality and its exploration of the different states of consciousness play in your art? I am interested in meditation, how sometimes it can take you to a higher state of consciousness where you become detached from the physical body and mind. I also sometimes include references in my work relating to the ‘spirit’ in the form of floating balls of light for example.
Seana Gavin’s Heaven, Hell and Everywhere In Between is on view at 3939shop Gallery, London until mid-August and several of the original pieces on show are available at 3939shop.com