An interview with Phil Carney

Phil Carney is a British based collage artist working primarily with black and white archive photography against worn paper. Each piece feels like a blurred memory of trauma, loss and desire. Carney flips collage on its head layering with texture rather than many images with each change in colour and texture informing and shaping the found photography further. 

"Please tell us a bit about you and your work as an artist."

I'm 32, English and have been creating handmade collages for about 5 or 6 years. My collages consist of found photographs and old pieces of paper. I have exhibited all over the world from Canada to Slovenia and it's a huge honour to be able to have these opportunities off the back of my artwork. 

"Your images are very layered but include very few photographs. How do you source your images?"

The images featured in my collages are from old news magazines, mostly from the 40s and 60s. I think what interests me most is the graininess due to the ageing of the paper, this is what makes the image feel quite distant. I spend a lot of time collecting large amounts of magazines, most of the time I have a certain feeling I want to convey and search through these magazines to find something that will convey the message I'm looking for. 

"What influences you?"

I'm mostly influenced by cinema and the themes and feelings conveyed in films which speak to me is memory and loss, I would say that is the main theme of my work. For me, the layered paper in my collages represent the passing of time and the single image is the memory. My collages are always driven by a narrative, showing the relationship between people and space. 

"Your collages take used paper and vintage photographs, but feel very contemporary, could you tell us more about the importance of composition in collage and in your work?"

A lot of the time the size of the images I have to hand affects the composition; it's rare I make anything bigger than A4 as the materials I collect are relatively small due to their original use. I use multiple laters of used paper to create texture and depth for the backgrounds, it's really important to keep each piece quite minimalistic so they feel fairly cold. 

"What do you hope for people to see and feel when they look at your work?"

Maybe to see a bit of themselves or a relatable memory or feeling in my work that speaks to them. I have started making more singular image works hoping this would intensify the impact of the image against the negative space surrounding them.

"Your images are very sensual through representation of women, flowers and kissing. Are your pieces about love?"

Yes, a lot of them are, or at least a memory of love. I do want to show a softness towards a person’s memory of another, a tenderness where the memory of touch still weighs heavy. To live in that memory.

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