Surreal Collages Revealing the Absurdity of Popular Culture

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Artwork by Sammy Slabbinck, Courtesy of Michael Hoppen Gallery

A new exhibition by Belgian artist Sammy Slabbinck turns clippings from vintage magazines into witty compositions

Sammy Slabbinck is a cut-and-paste veteran. The Belgium-based artist is widely celebrated for his use of the hands-on technique with which he creates surreal colleges from found vintage photographs – and his latest exhibition, entitled Surreality Check at Michael Hoppen Gallery, is a showcase of his skilful compositions. A keen collector of vintage magazines, Slabbinck re-appropriates and de-contextualises the images he finds in order to reveal the absurdity of popular culture. “I like to browse through them and cut out images that seem interesting to work with,” Slabbinck tells us. “One particular image can trigger my imagination, and then I start looking for other images to complete the story.”

Fans of Slabbinck’s DIY, low-tech methods of making are far-flung – his work has been featured in publications from The New Yorker and The Telegraph to Der Spiegel, as well as album covers including You Want it Darker by Leonard Cohen. His collages have a psychedelic quality to them, his confident approach to image layering really bringing the narrative and charisma of each picture to life. “I think my surreal style remains pretty consistent,” he tells us. “I’ve been collecting vintage magazines for a long time now – my studio is packed full of them.” It’s through a love of old publications that the artist first began re-contextualising the nude female form, too, as has become a recurring trope in his practice. “I like to elevate the pictures that I find in vintage men’s magazines for instance, to another level, and empower the women in them. I’m not really interested in the pure depiction of beauty or nudity – it’s when you add or hide certain elements, or give the body another function, that the overall image can become intriguing.”

Slabbinck stuck to no fixed strategy or theme when creating the work for Surreality Check, and this allowed him the freedom and flexibility to follow his own creative instincts. “When making collages you stumble upon images everyday that provoke ideas that tend to go in all sorts of directions,” he explains. Subtle but quick-witted; intelligent and satirical; sentimental and yet defiantly modern; the results are a salve for our modern age.

Surreality Check is at Michael Hoppen Gallery, London, until December 22, 2017.