Who is Linden Eller and what does she do?
I am a maker from the United States. I grew up in Arizona, studied in California, and have been moving around ever since - spending small seasons in Rhode Island and Maine, rural England, Europe, India, Southeast Asia, Australia, Samoa, and currently New Zealand. I really enjoy and support things from the old world - analog photography, writing letters, homesteading. I currently am spending my time exploring a lot of our planet, learning about other ways to live and think and be. I do a lot of WWOOFING (world wide opportunities on organic farms) on my way, and can’t recommend it enough. I like cats and picnics.
When did you first start playing around with collage as an art form?
I began playing around with collage in my first art class at university, 2-D design. I started out using the process of collage purely as an emotional exercise, and would build up layers beneath a oil-painted illustration on top. It’s only been in the last 3-4 years that I’ve given collage the dominant role, allowing me to focus on things like abstraction, subtlety, and composition.
Who and/or what inspires you and your work?
So many things! I listen to music while working, mainly folk and ambient electronic, which greatly affect my mood and direction as I create. Colour is very important to me. I connect to subdued low contrast soft pallettes with the occasional bright. Whenever I go into a hardware store I always end up walking out with a handful of those free colour swatch cards. Other people’s work is always inspiring and I adore many photographers (Irene Kiel, Osamu Yokohama, Margaret Durow, Vivian Maier), painters (Andrew Wyeth, Rothko, Sarah Brooke, Joe Sorren) and illustrators (Kelsey Garrity-Riley, Keiko Brodeur, Stephanie K. Clark, Nastia Sleptsova). When I was at university, I used to hang a big piece of butcher paper in my studio with a list of all the things that interested me. I still sort of do that mentally, and currently some things on that list would be: moons, plants, ghosts, and houses. In terms of materials, I get really excited about lost and found objects, and the fact that they are tied somewhere to someone else’s life: bus tickets, receipts, shopping lists, photographs. I’ve always loved exploring and going for walks, collecting little bits of treasure in my pockets, and I guess that enjoyment has carried over into what I make. I get a buzz out of the idea of creating work that has all these layers of memory from different people. I feel like I should also mention this podcast from Radiolab called “Memory and Forgetting” that has really affected my work - it’s brilliant. And lastly, my friends and their individual worlds have probably influenced me more than they realize. I’m grateful to know so many beautiful kindred humans.
What's your creative space like?
Since I’ve spent the better part of the last decade moving around the globe, my creative space usually consists of being tucked away in the corner of whatever room I’m currently occupying. I travel with a little art bag and when I’m ready to make something I just unload it all onto the floor (or if I’m lucky a table or desk). I have daydreams though about someday owning a real studio and filling it with plants and colour studies and objects I love.
How would you describe your creative style or theme?
I consider my work as field recordings from the mind. I’ve always been a melancholic person, which naturally parallels to being a nostalgic person. And so I suppose my themes are mainly centered around memory, its process, and the layers of small alterations which happen each time we recall something. Often I try to blend together personal elements with larger collective subjects, such as childhood, longing, home.
What are some key things you consider when creating pieces?
I want my work to be pretty, quiet, and curious. Regardless of if I’m successful at communicating what I hope to in terms of theme, I try and create pieces that stand alone aesthetically. When moving pieces around, I’m looking for similarities between them, trying to figure out where to place each one that would create the best transition. Because I lean towards low contrast tones, I’m also wondering if a segment is too dark and if I need to lighten it using another layer. I guess when making any abstract work you are always considering many basic design principles as well, composition being a big one for me.
Without giving up all your secrets, what is your artistic process when creating a work?
I suppose it all begins with sourcing materials. Sometimes my favourite part of the process is looking through books and magazines and cutting out bits I want to keep. It’s really powerful because you get to decide what is important and then try and show people why (like saying “psssst: look at THIS”). When making, I tend to start with a trigger, a scrap of something I’m really drawn to. I can get excited by a little corner of a photograph - an elbow, or a tree in the background - and that’s really all it takes to start the process. From there, I just play (probably like most collage artists). I sort of hunt through my big pile of materials searching for more pieces that would look or feel right next to the original scrap. Making my decisions based on colour, shape, and theme, I then shift everything around until I’m pleased. One of my signature features is using elements of tracing paper, and this is usually the final layer, as it adds softness and depth. After using double sided tape or a glue stick to hold everything loosely in place, I finally sew it all down. This neutral repetitive stitching movement at the end always feels like a good calming exit out of the whole process.
If you could collaborate with anyone, who would it be?
It would be a dream to collaborate with Michel Gondry - to somehow weave collage elements into film. The Science of Sleep and Eternal Sunshine influenced me a lot early on even though they are a completely different art form.
Aside from creating your artworks, what else keeps you busy?
Traveling, volunteering on farms, figuring out my next place. I do a lot of writing, reading, and cooking / baking when I have access to a kitchen. Right now I’m working in the shearing gangs in woolsheds around Central Otago on the South Island of NZ. I’ve always had an interest in sheep and it’s been amazing to see what goes on behind the scenes in the wool industry. It’s incredibly hard work - said to be one of the toughest jobs in the world - but I absolutely love it. I’m always trying to surround myself with communities that aren’t connected to the art world. I think it’s really important for a balance in character.
Any recent, current or future projects we should know about?
I just recently completed a 2 month residency at the Tiapapata Art Centre in Samoa. During my time there, I produced enough work for a solo exhibition in their gallery, titled Sleep/Swim. The pieces explored island nostalgia - dreamings and recollections involving an oceanic environment. I’m currently working on an ongoing project of archiving my writings and photographs, which I hope to one day publish into book form. You can discover more here: www.lindowly.com
Based on your experience, what advice would you give someone looking to start making collage art?
Find things that excite you. Collage art is all about your materials, so that’s the best place to start. I still remember the advice Guy Kinnear (my wonderful drawing and painting teacher at university) told me ten years ago, which is to “just make work.” The good stuff you can exhibit and the shit stuff you can write off as studies or sketches, but at least you’re not shaking in the studio scared to make anything because it might not turn out perfect. I think that fear is what holds a lot of people back from starting to make things.