Meet Collage Artist Linden Eller
Linden Eller doesn’t like to stay fixed in one spot. The collage artist has lived in a lot of different places – New England, Europe, India, Australia, Samoa, New Zealand – and come January she’ll be packing her bags yet again. “I’m moving to Japan,” says Eller. “I have been greatly influenced by the works of Murakami, Miyazaki, Shintaro Ohata, Osamu Yokonami and many other Japanese photographers and artists. There is a general widespread aesthetic in Japan that I connect to and that I would like to learn more about, particularly concerning colour and common themes of nostalgia/memory. I’ve been curious about it as a place for quite some time.”
In Japan she’ll continue her collage practice, a medium, she says, suited to her transient lifestyle. “The materials are lightweight, not messy and constantly renewable. It’s a relatively new medium, and I find it exciting to be a part of the community exploring it. I think I’ve found an identity in collage, a distinct style that I struggled to create in other genres.”
Eller collages combine photographs, transparent paper, sketches, text and sewn stitches which swirl together to form a window into other worlds, moments and stories, so it’s apt she calls them “field workings of memory”. We chat to Eller about her hometown, inspiration and what she gets up to when not making.
Where are you from and what do you love about your hometown?
I spent my childhood in Phoenix, Arizona. I often felt out of place growing up there, but there are certain nostalgic elements that I’ll probably always attach to the idea of home – pale desert colours, saguaros, eucalyptus, dry air, dust storms, and the scent of rain mixed with earth. These are things I’ve learned to love.
What made you move to New Zealand?
I had been previously living in Australia and since New Zealand was just a hop away and I was still eligible for the Working Holiday Visa, I thought I’d come over and have a look around. I’m doing a lot of long-term travel at the moment, so any flexible opportunity to work in another country is a good one. Admittedly, I’ve always had a fondness for sheep, and actually ended up working in the wool sheds over here for three seasons!
Were you a creative kid? What did you used to make?
I mostly enjoyed drawing. I remember often being alone in my own world for hours at a time, whether I was making things or playing with toys, so I suppose I’ve always had a big imagination.
How long have you been making collages?
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 an illustration in oils on top. It’s only been in the last three to four that I’ve given collage the dominant role, allowing me to focus on things like abstraction, subtlety, and composition.
Where do you find the elements for your collages?
I love 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’m delighted by lost and found objects, and the fact that they are tied somewhere to someone else’s life: bus tickets, receipts, shopping lists, photographs. I get a buzz out of the idea of creating work that has all these layers of memory from different people. Other common sources are an assortment of magazines and books.
What inspires them?
So many things – the music I’m listening to while creating (often folk or ambient), colour, light, the possibility of communicating something resonant. 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. I feel like I should also mention this podcast from Radiolab called “Memory and Forgetting” that has really affected my work – it’s brilliant.
Who inspires you?
Other people’s work is always inspiring and I admire many photographers, painters, and illustrators – Irena Kielb, Sarah Kelk, and Nastia Sleptsova, to name a few. My friends and their individual worlds have probably impacted me more than they realise. I’m grateful to know so many beautiful kindred humans.
What’s your Achilles’ heel?
Probably taking on too much. I have an abundance of curiosities and so there are always things I’d like to learn more about or ideas I’d like to try. My lists are usually too long and I can often get overwhelmed.
What do you like to do when not making?
Travelling, volunteering on farms, hiking, gardening, writing letters, listening to music/podcasts, reading, watching films, cooking/baking, adventuring, playing, and going on lots of picnics.
What was the first piece of art that had an impact on you?
Joe Sorren has a big mural painted in Flagstaff, Arizona that I always adored, called ‘The Veridic Gardens of Effie Leroux’. Even though my work ended up nothing like his, I remember identifying with his palette and tender narrative elements. Another significant one was ‘Shepherdess With Her Flock’ by French painter Jean-François Millet. Rauschenberg and Rothko were also big early influences.
Whose work would you love to own a piece of?
Anything by Andrew Wyeth.
What will 2017 bring?
I will be doing an artist residency (and perhaps an exhibition) in Sapporo, Japan for February and March. Mainly I’d like to continue exploring the abstract world, as possibilities and growth seem infinite. Illustration has regularly been something I enjoy doing, and will probably continue to do casually or when opportunities arise. At the moment, I’m trying to be intentional about integrating my travels with what I’m making. It’s challenging and still remains a struggle, but I’m persevering. In that spirit, I’m currently piecing together an experimental project combining travel, geocaching, benevolence, the postal service, and custom memory collages. To be unveiled soon!