Manipulating desire; masks, collage and the surreal subconscious by Jessica Ballantyne

Manipulating desire; masks, collage and the surreal subconscious by Jessica Ballantyne


Jessica Ballantyne<br />  Title: Get it off!<br />  Medium: collage, bow, plastic insect<br />  Size: 12x12" Jessica Ballantyne artist, jkballantyne, artist, south african, magic, hands, bow tie, ribbon, floral wallpaper, hands pulling bow, african mask, surreal art, half drawn, half photograph, figurative, erotic, sensual,

Have you ever wondered about an artist’s thought process or why they chose a particular subject?

When you look at any artist’s work you may be hit by the audacity, the seemingly meaningless or talentless display, or be amazed by their concept, their particular skill or craftsmanship. What many artists fail to communicate with their audience is the intimate and sometimes strikingly complex thought processes and interconnections that form the main ideas in their work.

I feel that it is impossible to separate the artist from their work just as it is impossible to separate the poet from their own poetry.
By learning about the artist or asking them probing questions about their work (many artists hate this by the way, but I think it’s very good for us!) if the artist is willing to share, you can start to understand the wealth of ideas behind the art as well as the intimate meanings behind the work and if (and how) it relates to your self.
As I can only speak for myself and my own art, I hope to share with you some of my recent work and the stories behind them and why I chose the particular method of making the art, that is by a process of collage and automatism.


Jessica Ballantyne<br /> Title: Behind the Flower Garden<br /> Medium: collage with dried flowers and plastic insects<br /> Size:12x12",Jessica Ballantyne artist, jkballantyne, artist,surreal art, erotic art, sensual art, unusual art, different art, deep art, dried daisies, dried lavender, mirrored legs, insects in art, cockraches, magic, legs, floral wallpaper, surreal art, photograph, figurative, erotic, sensual,


What is automatism and how do I use it in my collages?

Surrealistic automatism or “Pure psychic automatism” as André Breton defined surrealism, covers a range of spontaneous art-making without thought or planning as to what the end result will be. This was thought to be a way to tap into the subconscious and release the logical and structured aspect of the mind, resulting in various art forms. While there are many Surrealist Techniques that use automatism, such as painting, drawing, poetry and writing, I focused on collage.

A Collage is the assemblage of different forms (and often materials) in order to create a new whole. An example of an artistic collage work may include objects, newspaper clippings, ribbons, bits of coloured or hand-made papers, photographs, etc. glued to a solid support or canvas.

When I create the collages, I start off with a collection of various images and objects. I arrange and rearrange the pieces to create a form I’m happy with. Once I have achieved some end result that resonates with me, I stick it down. At this stage the collage is not always finished and I may add flowers, bits of lace or anything else that pops into my head in the process. It is a really freeing type of art making and very enjoyable.


Jessica Ballantyne<br /> Title: Rag Doll<br /> Medium: Collage on canvas board<br /> Size:7x8", Jessica Ballantyne artist, Jessica Ballantyne, surrealism, surreal collage, collage, surrealist, rag doll, onion rag, art, lace, bow, legs, blue legs, beads, bead eyes, african, traditional, beaded doll, colourful, orange, minimalist, onion bag dress, bag dress, onion dress, subconscious, strange, contemporary collage, contemporary art, south african artist, south african,


How I choose my images and put them together

I thought a lot about how I would choose the images for the surreal collages. I didn’t want to spend too much time deciding on and scrutinising the images. To create a sense of impulse and spontaneity, I chose images of bodies and masks that I was immediately attracted to. I started by using the images I had lying around the studio; African masks and body reference photographs that I had used for my paintings. I then started combining these images with other objects I found lying around the house and studio; old underwear, onion rags, coloured paper, push pins, ribbon, beads etc.

After I ran out of images in my studio I started to actively seek out images on the internet; images of African masks and of bodies, images of things that struck me on first glance. I didn’t dwell on the images nor did I actively search for anything too specific. I just added them to the collection to be printed out later.

Now, this might sound a bit hippy, but making these collages was more than just a release…it was like a meditation. Hours would go by in what seemed like minutes. I wasn’t aware of thoughts that were arising, I wasn’t aware of anything except the reaction the resulting images were producing in me


Jessica Ballantye<br /> Title: Clack<br /> Medium: Collage<br /> Size: 6x6", six breasted, jessica ballantyne, jessica k ballantyne, collage, surreal, surreal collage, surrealism, insect, african mask, insect face, floral wallpaper art, wallpaper, floral, colourful, bright, different, strange, dark,unusual, inspired by hanna hoch, inspiration, vibrant art, blue, pink roses


Jessica Ballantyne<br /> Title: No Panties <br /> Medium: Collage<br /> Size: 6x6", No Panties, African mask, sensual, erotic, figurative, mask, cut out, paper doll,six breasted, jessica ballantyne, jessica k ballantyne, collage, surreal, surreal collage, surrealism, insect, african mask, insect face, floral wallpaper art, wallpaper, floral, colourful, bright, different, strange, dark,unusual, inspired by hanna hoch, inspiration, vibrant art, green, patterned, wallpaper,



Inspiration Strikes!

On experiencing these images, I knew I wanted to make more, it was such an exhilarating process- so different from painting and much more immediate. It was then that a friend lent me Story of the Eye by Georges Bataille; an erotic literary piece, an artwork in itself. Story of the Eye was to further the idea I already had; of the body as an erotic object of desire that experiences desire and experiences release, only to experience desire again; a continual circle of desire and satisfaction, where the satisfaction is a temporary outcome. I wanted to create a sense of the link between eroticism and death, also inspired by Bataille.


Jessica Ballantyne<br /> Title: Miley<br /> Medium: Collage<br /> Size: 6x6", jessica Ballantyne, miley, miley cyris, collage, art, eyeball, eye, story of the eye, african mask, mask, dream story, sex, sexuality, animal sexuality, surrealism, surreal, contemporary collage, contemporary art, African, nudity, nude, erotic, female sexuality, objectification, feminism, masked woman, masked nude, tribalism, animal, goat mask, ritualist, ritual, barefoot, pornography, shiny eye,


What ends this achieves and why I find it interesting

The resulting artworks are semi-spontaneous outpourings with multiple meanings. I used African masks because of their associations with colonialism and the entry into an unknown land and the contact with unknown people. It is this sense of the unknown and of anonymity that intrigues me about masks. The traditional African masks also possess a strangeness and have magical association with witch doctors, rituals and magic. I find the masks somewhat disturbing and threatening, as though harbouring a menacing presence. I still have a gorgeous one hanging on my wall though 🙂

The African masks are not only a whisper of the continent I was born on, but have been used by artists such as Picasso and Man Ray (amongst others) to represent “savage” sexuality. I find these masks fascinating not only because of their mysterious nature (many were not allowed to even be seen outside of the ritual they were made for) and magical associations but also because the juxtaposition of a white bodied nude wearing a black African mask is, to me the ultimate rejection of traditional beauty of the west and an assimilation of the masculine power and mysteriousness of tribalism. You can read more about African mask meanings here.


Jessica Ballantyne<br /> Title: A Crying Shame<br /> Medium: Collage<br /> Size: 12x12", jessica ballantyne, art, Jessica Ballantyne Artist, Collage, dried roses, cockroaches, body, white body, african mask, white and black, dried rose petals, petals, art, contemporary art, south african artist, african mask, tribalism, decay, wallpaper, floral, africa and the west, colonialism, tribalism, violence in South Africa, women and violence, crumbling, sexuality, animal, animal sexuality, subconscious, surrealism, surreal art, disturbing, pornography, feminism


How does it relate to you?

Sexuality is a very complex human condition and involves many aspects of ourselves- emotional, physical and spiritual. I wanted the collages to be an amalgamation of these aspects that include instinctual and acted out parts of our sexuality. The collages are meant to inspire an inner looking or simply a different way of looking at ourselves, our bodies and our sexuality.
In these surreal collages I explore animal sexuality, desire, sensuality as well as fear. I feel there is too much control in all aspects of our lives and what one most wants is to break free from these apparent constraints. Art making for me, is one of the ways I break free. I hope that by looking at the artwork, the viewer can feel some of that.


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