Who? Belgium-based collage artist Sammy Slabbinck has made a name for himself repurposing images from vintage magazines and transforming them into bold and beautifully bizarre compositions. He first started collecting the publications four or five years ago, when his work as vintage furniture trader had him scouring yard sales and antique shops. He explains: “I would find these great magazines of photography or fashion or furniture, and I started buying them just because I liked the look of them.”
Before long, he had amassed quite a collection of retro cuttings, and decided it was high time he worked them into pieces of his own. “I worry that one day the floor in my studio is going to give up because of the weight!” he exclaims. “But they are a source of constant inspiration, so when I see them I have to buy them.”
What? The compositions which emerge from this distillation of archive imagery are equal parts offbeat, evocative and utterly surreal; a sweet mother and child in matching white cotton sip from soup bowls holding oceans full of tiny sailboats, while reclining female figures transform into sprawling landscapes. It’s a space for the absurd and the irrational, and it makes for seductive viewing.
Humour plays an important role in Slabbinck’s practice too and crops up quite naturally. “When you combine two images that don’t really blend in together, you often find that there is a humorous element,” he says.
Why? They may be aesthetically pleasing, but there’s a subversive undertone to Slabbinck’s collages too. “It comes very naturally to me to add my own critique,” he comments, and the objectification of the female body seems to be the first outmoded convention to fall to his scalpel. “Sex sells, obviously,” he adds, “but in magazines like Playboy, it’s not always very classy.” By removing the female form from its original context and placing it in a new one – “another décor, another place” – Slabbinck looks to empower his subjects, investing them with a new legitimacy.
Slabbinck is the newest in a long tradition of collage artists, but with Belgium’s art industry having taken a turn for the conservative after the economic troubles of recent years, the artist has turned to Instagram to deliver his work. “[Galleries] don’t really take that many risks anymore,” he says. “They don’t want young artists or up-and-coming artists. That’s why the internet is such an interesting demographic now,” he says. “Everybody can make something, and if somebody decides that they like it, there’s no filter there.” With this revolutionary means of sharing images, Slabbinck is able to make his message available to the masses.