Peter Horvath is a Canadian multimedia and collage artist, whose unique collages manipulate and rework imagery from popular culture.
Horvath’s digital collage work references both fine art and mass media. For example, his series ‘Lines and Vectors’ is inspired by Alexander Calder’s famous mobile sculptures, but Horvath juxtaposes these lines and vectors with images from 20th century advertising to create surreal works that provide a commentary on contemporary culture.
He employs imagery from a vast variety of sources, including magazines and adverts from the 1960s and 70s, and juxtaposes these to create his distinctive saturated images. While the materials used come from the past, Horvath’s innovative reworking brings them into the 21st century and allows him to construct narratives that comment on America’s hegemony and subsequent decline in the 20th century: the so-called American Century.
We interviewed Peter to find out more about his artistic process and the meaning behind his distinctive collages.
How did you come to art, or how did art come to you?
I’ve been around cameras all my life, both my grandfathers and my father were photographers. My first photo series was created when I was 6 or 7, when I photographed a number of my school friends using a Kodak Instamatic. I positioned them all in similar poses, in my room, holding an object. My next series was images of cars, all parked in different parking lots, in a documentary style, always the whole car in profile. All these images were made with intention and a point of reference, even though I didn’t realize it fully at the time. So I suppose you could say art found me at a very early age.
You originally worked as a photographer before building a career as a digital collage artist. How did you choose your medium?
The first photo-collages I saw were back in the 90’s: John Heartfield’s anti-Nazi propaganda AIZ covers. It was like a bomb going off in my head, I had never seen photography used in this way. Then I came across Hannah Höch and the other Dadaists’ collage work and was again overwhelmed with a desire to start cutting and pasting. My early collages incorporated elements I had photographed myself, but then after a hiatus of a number of years, I began making work using popular culture references I had grown up with. There was a familiarity to these images, especially the adverts, and though this material was originally conceived to impact influence, I was eager to re-work the source material with the intent of removing the original context and reason.
You work with a variety of media, both audio and visual. Which medium do you prefer and which challenges you the most?
I spent many years making web-browser based audio/video narratives and really enjoyed the process. Also, because the work was web-based it found a global audience, with the work eventually showing in museums and galleries. This was all pre-Youtube, and was a challenging and invigorating time, with the Internet an exciting, fledgeling new medium to be working in.
That being said, I love making collage work, it is a more insular experience, and I enjoy the large scale object/print-making process – quite the opposite of the web-based works, which were experiential in nature.
How do you select the images that you include in your collages?
Initially, I begin with an idea and often do very loose reference sketches. These are more idea-based drawings as opposed to element placing within the frame, which I let happen organically once I start building the image. Then comes the foraging through my archive of reference material, which is a marriage of “search and discover”. My studio floor has hundreds of magazines strewn about, open to pages that have struck me at one time or another. I tend to be attracted to old magazines for the quality of the printing/colour and the printer’s “dot” which becomes an inherent part of the final artwork. I look for images that fit conceptually, but sometimes, with my surreal collages, the reference material instigates the direction the collage will take.
What message do you try to communicate through your work?
My web-based and multi-channel video works concentrate on issues of identity, and psychic and emotional relations. These works are linear in format but fractured in storytelling, culminating in video-based narratives that are atmospheric investigations into states of being. I develop fragmented plotlines that weave layers of documentation – journal entries, sketches, written records, photographs, voiceover and music – into cinematic experiences, on the web and in video installation. My video sequences are frequently suspended, disjunctive and blurred, distorting the viewer’s visual and emotional sense of place. I’ve carried on with this line of exploration in my collage work, incorporating nostalgic imagery, where juxtaposition and scale combine with saturated colour, producing surreal, hypnagogic and sometimes humorous re-workings. In my newest series American Century I’ve tried to bring to the fore questions of memory, celebrity and private space vs. public space.
Does your work engage with current events and contemporary society (and if so, how)?
Yes, I think American Century touches on contemporary ideas through the use of vintage references. I produced this series as a look back from a present day perspective, to reflect on the perceived decay of the United States’ global potency, and the 20th Century American hegemony. With this series I intersect images of larger than life individuals “architecturally” within constructed vistas, creating an altered, geometric space, that expresses an illusory inner sanctum. For me, viewing these well known individuals from a 2018 perspective hints at the shift in perception surrounding previously accepted notions of the private realm to the modern day notion of a vastly more public realm through the use of, for example, social media, perpetuating the idea of life as a public performance.
Which achievement are you most proud of?
The recent inclusion of my work in the Whitney Museum Of American Art’s permanent collection was an especially proud moment for me. And I got a lifetime membership as well 🙂
Peter Horvath on Singulart:https://www.singulart.com/en/artist/peter-horvath-961
The artist’s website:http://www.peterhorvath.net/
Peter Horvath introduction and interview by Georgina Fooks