For collage artist and animator Alice Isaac, a fundamental part of her work is understanding that “you are always at the mercy of the imagery,” she tells us. Often found creating work for sports brands or events, as well as television and film – earlier this year in a commission for the Lioness’ squad reveal ahead of the Women’s World Cup and an animation for Hulu that places the 31-year cult classic White Men Can’t Jump alongside Atlanta and Keeping Up with the Kardashians – she amplifies culturally significant moments of the present while making the past feel as fresh as the day it emerged. “I try to push past traditional notions of what collage is by mixing handmade analogue techniques with digital ones. It’s all about finding new compositions for mixed media,” she adds.
Long before her foray into collage art, Alice originally studied editorial and VFX at the London College of Fashion. “I feel like the experience influenced my penchant for gravitating towards faces, the physical form and movement,” she tells us. And with influences such as Man Ray, Francis Bacon, Daniel Sadwaald and Hype Williams, it's no wonder that even when her collages aren’t moving, they still have a particular way of bringing the form to life.
In a series of artworks for this year’s Mercury Prize, Alice creates with the same transformative power and more musicality than ever before. With a series of collages – both fixed and rotating – of the 12 shortlisted artists and their albums, she plucks from underlying themes while using imagery that places emphasis on the culture behind its varying genres. In the collage for the jazz quintet Ezra Collective, images of the members playing the trumpet, saxophone and drums are seen alongside a portrait of the group outside without their instruments. It allows us to immediately feel a sense of the music while also displaying the less high brow and approachable nature behind the contemporary jazz scene in Britain.
Although the series demands a cohesive feel, each of the artworks have a distinctive aesthetic that fans and newcomers alike can feel and interpret. “The project was very much dictated by the material I had to work with. All of the artists were asked to provide me with photos, and let’s just say some were less receptive than others. I really took the opportunity to watch all the music videos and listen to the albums. I tried to absorb as much of it as I could to influence my choices and it all came together in the animations and stills,” Alice tells us. “Working with limited images and material pulled from an array of sources can always be difficult to mash together. Don’t spend hours correcting lighting or colours to make it all look like all the imagery came from the same place.” she adds.
After a few months of “absolute madness,” juggling commissions that we will surely look back on as standout moments in culture, Alice is most looking forward to a well earned rest, before jumping back into more projects and a talk at Forward Festival in Vienna next month. Before all of that though, and later on tonight, the Mercury Prize awards show will take place at the Eventim Apollo in London and Alice’s artwork will surely take another level of timelessness as one of the 12 take the winning spot. But most of all for Alice, the project has taught her a lot about the art form that she holds dear: “The best thing to do with mixed media is just fucking embrace it. It’s all imperfect and clunky and that’s the way I like it.”
Alice Isaac: The Car, Arctic Monkeys (Copyright © Alice Isaac, 2023)
About the Author
Yaya (they/them) is an editorial assistant at It's Nice That, with a particular interest in Black visual culture. They have previously written for publications such as WePresent, and worked as researcher and facilitator for Barbican and Dulwich Picture Gallery.