When graphic designer Aaron Marin started making black and white collage work, it immediately grabbed our attention. They’re evocative and undeniably eye catching, so it’s ironic that Aaron tells us they’re “a simple exercise in creating under restraint”. Back when Aaron was first getting into photography, he became “inundated with too many variables in the process of creating”, and thus found it harder to make art. Collaging streamlines the variables and concentrates Aaron’s skillset in to more concise pieces of art. Now, Aaron keeps it simple: he uses a shipping label printer, stacks of magazines and books, scissors, a hobby knife and some clear tape.
A lot of Aaron’s collages feature figures from African-American art and culture, creating a beautiful array of visuals and iconography that are too often sidelined in the world of graphic design. “In each collage I make sure I have at least one of the following: subject, typography, pattern and, occasionally, I throw in something non sequitur,” Aaron says. While Aaron relishes in using a shipping label printer (“there’s no need for ink or glue”), he finds sourcing the images to be the most strenuous part of the work – especially as they all have to blend in black and white. “I like working with constraints and black and white images are stark, and there is nothing to hide behind,” he tells us. “ I love how images in b/w can be both ephemeral and permanent. Ephemeral in the sense of weekly manga, printed cheaply and designed to be consumed week after week, and also permanent like the painting Guernica that hangs in a museum.”
The collage project itself started with the idea of doing ‘good work’, hence the phrase popping up in some collages. “The ethos behind ‘good work’ is that not everything you make has to be great or exceptional, in fact, most of what you make is gonna be just okay,” Aaron says. “However, it’s the missteps that allow for growth, and that only happens by showing up and trying to do good work.” Now, as Aaron continues to find his voice within this self-imposed limitation, he finds his intentions constantly shifting. From Picasso to Comme des Garcons, Peter Lindbergh to Emory Douglas, punk zines to his own former home in Japan, Aaron is sourcing ideas from everywhere. Whatever the collage turns out to be, they all project an exploratory nature to them, as if to encourage the viewer to let go and embrace imperfection.
For the most part, Aaron uses his collages as a way to articulate things he cannot say with words. “I would like people to see my art and the means by which I make it and say ‘hey I can make art too’,” Aaron tells us. “If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a collage is at the very least a short story.”
Aaron Marin: Smile (Copyright © Aaron Marin, 2023)
About the Author
Joey is a freelance design, arts and culture writer based in London. They were part of the It’s Nice That team as editorial assistant in 2021, after graduating from King’s College, London. Previously, Joey worked as a writer for numerous fashion and art publications, such as HERO Magazine, Dazed, and Candy Transversal.