Meditations on a Theme by J.S. Bach (a collage suite) 2004-2007 WIP

Shortly after having completed the collage suite, Lamentations I found myself toying with the idea of another suite. In this instance the initial source of inspiration was J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations. Bach has long been my favorite composer and over the course of several weeks i had been listening to several recordings of his variations including both of the magnificent versions by Glenn Gould. I began to toy with the idea of creating a suite of collages working in a limited range of color (just as the composer had been limited by the possibilities of the single keyboard on which his music was to be performed) and maintaining a single recognizable theme or motif throughout the entire suite (again, just as the composer built a series of variations around a motif that was present in each piece). I wondered just how long I might be reasonably expected to successfully limit myself in such a way. I also made the decision from the start that the structure and the motif would be quite geometric… echoing the almost mathematical structure of Bach’s music. The challenge, I thought, would be to succeed in conveying a variety of moods and in maintaining interest… both my own… and that of the audience… within such limitation. I chose a single collage work done just a few weeks prior which I felt was particularly good. This became the “motif” upon which all the other works would be built:


The suite took off rapidly. Some of the earliest works employed a broader range of value as well as imagery used in almost a Surrealist manner:


The somewhat 3-dimensional look of these collage is actually an element that exists in the real work; the collages are built up upon a number of “platforms” so that certain areas are slightly raised in relief while others sit further back. I was fascinated with the idea using this real element of relief (rather in the manner of some of Ben Nicholson’s work) and then engaging in a “game” of “push-pull” (as Hoffman called it) where the area that appears to recede may in actual physical reality be the closest.




I soon made the decision to consciously attempt to limit myself even further with regard to the use of value contrast:






A the suite evolved I began employing far more than the the various old papers from books; I also began to utilize end-boards, the book covers, the spine, the antique engravings, the semi-transparent papers used to protect the engravings, etc…






As the works evolved I began to employ some floral elements… partially as a bit of decoration… partially because I felt that such gave a little needed flourish… partially because I felt that such was an appropriate element considering the “poetic” nature of the works… but in a large way because I felt that it would present something of a challenge to utilize such without the works slipping into sentimental schlock or schmaltz.









In the above collage… one of my favorites… I employed hand-written notes jotted on an old envelope as I began to think of the suite as a whole as something rather intimate… like a collection of personal missives, love-letters, or even poems wound in pink ribbon… as Emily Dickinson had done.



After having churned out some 50 collages or there-about within this suite, I began to recognize that there were a number of sub-groups within the suite as a whole. I began to collect these into groupings to be shown as a trio or quartet. These were given titles of their own: The Winter Trio (Ghost Trio):


Men of Letters:



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