INTERVIEWED BY Mary Garner
The talented Berry Meyer, a South African artist living in The Netherlands, creates intricate 3D collages that tell layered stories. Here, she talks to us about how she came to discover her passion for 3D, on not waiting to be discovered as an artist and how she veers away from working towards a preconceived idea.
When did you create your first collage and how did you first manage to have your work featured in a gallery space?
I’m not sure when I made my first collage, but it’s something I’ve been doing for about the last 14 years. I have always liked how in collage you can create endless possibilities and the outcome will always be unpredictable. A few years after my masters I enrolled as a post-graduate printmaking student at Michealis, which has a graduate exhibition every year that gets a lot of exposure and foot traffic. After this exhibition, Salon 91, AVA and Cavalli invited me to exhibit with them.
When viewing your beautiful 3D collages, it looks as though every piece has been consciously decided upon. How do you go about selecting pieces for your artworks?
I scour secondhand bookshops, thrift stores and flea markets, keeping an eye out for collections of images that others dismiss. Nowadays, I keep a constant eye out for materials. Once I have found a group of images I like, I collate images that speak to the theme of the gallery and then try and make a marriage of the contradictions surrounding the theme. Often I would try and distance my obsessions and say to myself, “This time I will not deal with gender or politics of place”, but then the image would just come back to exactly that. I have since discovered that I cannot work towards a preconceived idea but rather just make a start and then make the images and ideas speak as I go along.
On average, how long does it take you to complete a collage?
It’s difficult to work out how long it takes, because I am constantly busy creating images even when I have nowhere to send them. Most of my time is spent cutting out images that appeal to me, in stamps and other printed media. I always have a small pair of scissors with me and leave a little hamster trail of cuttings when I’m on holiday or visiting friends. By now I have a few drawers full of imagery and I can make three big collages in a month. By then most of the imagery has already been cut out, reinforced and raised with foam board before I begin the layout. Most of my time is spent cutting out images and a lot of time is spent doing layout and hunting for missing imagery, often flowers or hands.
When did you first find yourself drawn to the 3D medium and what is most rewarding about this form?
Although I enjoy making traditional two-dimensional collage and really respect the art form of creating depth on a flat surface I was drawn to the possibilities that can be created in three-dimensional dioramas. I first experimented with this technique in 2013. I started with cutting out stamps and affixing them to foam board suspended from pins and then planted on a styrofoam base. When my canvases got bigger the pins were replaced with layers of foam board to create depth. I find making three-dimensional work fun because you can create depth and mess with scale, which allows you to play with the possibilities inherent in the images in a way that is different from traditional collage. I also love seeing people’s reactions to these three dimensional worlds, as the depth makes some images stand out more while pushing back some images that are left as a surprise to the careful observer.
What advice would you give emerging artists?
There is no such thing as being discovered or someone making your career for you. It takes time to find your voice or signature and you will fail more than succeed in the beginning. Thus far I have had more rejection than success, life can be embarrassing that way and that’s okay! Be as independent as you can afford to, learn to photograph your work professionally, learn how to make frames from raw wood, market your brand and sell yourself, because there will not always be a gallery doing these things for you and the more you can do for yourself the better.
What can we expect from you next year?
I would love to take part in more international art fairs. I have participated in two Dutch fairs and am currently looking into German and Spanish fairs, as I think that those markets might be more open to collage. I also have entries for a few more European exhibitions and I have applied for a few residencies, so fingers crossed. I would also love to continue exhibiting in Cape Town, and possibly Johannesburg. Other than that, I picked up some taxidermy skills that I would finally like to combine with my collage. The objects that I have collected seem to all serve fashion in some bizarre way in the past, but I think these fashion trends are outdated and I would like to incorporate the items in an attempt to preserve these objects.
View more of Berry’s works at berrymeyer.com.