La vie en collage: these surreal artworks are a poetic interrogation of reality

5 May 2021

What is real and what is fake? Romanian duo @irina.silviu test our perceptions of reality with surrealist collages that reflect life’s idiosyncrasies and personal identity crises.

Made with scissors and glue, the artworks splice together fragments of classic art, everyday objects, magazine cutouts, scientific drawings, and 19th century photographs to create a feeling of distance and estrangement.

Irina and Silviu Szekel met at university in Bucharest while studying philosophy, and are now based in Wales. The self-taught artists began making collages as an expression of their journey living and travelling across different countries — “cutting and sticking” themselves in different places.

“We often call our life la vie en collage,” the duo told The Calvert Journal. “The paper cutouts are very much like people who travel. Sometimes they like the place where they’ve arrived so much that they immediately decide to stay there.”

Their surrealist style, where out-of-place body parts and objects come together in extraordinary compositions, is a contemporary take on Dadaism. But as the artists explain, their interest in the movement lies only in “the mixture of nihilism, humour, sarcasm, mockery, literary provocations and political ambiguities”.

The pair’s latest collages, part of their ongoing project Faux Tableaux, play with optical illusions as a way of exploring what defines our perception of what is real.

Faux tableaux literally means fake paintings or pictures. There are so many visible, retinal images that we are bombarded with [each day], but what about the invisible images, the images of our thoughts or feelings? How can we grasp those?”

Irina and Silviu also make analog black-and-white photomontage on their page @not.shaking.the.grass. Outside of Instagram, where they only showcase their recent collages, the duo’s work has been exhibited in Los Angeles, Paris, and London.

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