Interview "Finding the Perfect Grapefruit: a Conversation with Mark Lazenby" by Nathan Sharp for Albam as part of their "Albam Talks" Artist Series:

"Finding the Perfect Grapefruit: a Conversation with Mark Lazenby
Mark Lazenby is a British collagist, with a distinctive visual language he’s developed over the course of a career spanning more than 30 years. By turns absurdist and beautiful, his work explores the tradition of early Dada collagists artists such as Kurt Schwitters and Max Ernst, but with its own unique set of preoccupations. We spoke with Mark about the gulf between physical and digital media, making work from the scraps, and being a hoarder.

I’m going to start with a pretty broad question, and ask you how a collage takes shape:

I have different ways that I work, and it partly depends on how I’m feeling. Sometimes I have pieces that have been growing for a while that I’ve made lots of notes about. I’m working on one now that I planned about three years ago, but I’ve not felt at the stage where I’ve been ready to make it, for whatever reason.??Whereas other times I’ve found something – from trawling markets or antiques shops, or book shops, or eBay – that just grabs me, and I think, “I’m gonna do something with that.” I don’t have a particular idea, but I have two things that I want to merge from disparate places. I usually keep all the outside offcuts of stuff, which I can then trawl back through and make something completely fragmented, again, without any particular plan at the beginning. Just letting it build and seeing where it goes, and enjoying the process. It’s a bit more freeing.

Does being a collage artist require a rigorous approach to filing and storage?:

[Laughs] It probably should! I know other people that have drawers in their studios that are labelled ‘Chickens,’ or ‘Fruit,’ but mine… Everything has a place, and most of it I know where it might be, but I do get to the odd point where I’ve got an idea and I desperately need a grapefruit, and in my head I know I’ve got a really amazing grapefruit somewhere. I’ve got a big chest full of stuff, I’ve got suitcases and boxes and drawers, so sometimes you’ve just got to tip everything out. Or I’ve got to go out and find another one.

Does the not being able to find something become part of the work? Can that unpredictability make it more rewarding?:

Yeah, I think so. I like to leave space in the work for there to be accidents or mistakes. I want to surprise myself, and I want to surprise other people. I do have a lot of stuff collected, but for me I’ve always enjoyed going on the hunt for something. In the early days I was quite precious, so if I did find a nice print or a postcard, or a book, I probably wouldn’t use that, I’d use a photocopy, or do a screen print or something, and then use that.??If I’ve got an idea, I need to move on it quickly, I can’t wait three months to find the perfect grapefruit. I might hunt around on eBay or go to the bookshop and see if they’ve got something, but it’s a healthy limitation and it keeps it fresh. Years back I used to do a lot of commissions for magazines and newspapers, which I started off doing by hand, but then it got to the point where, say, someone from the Guardian would say, “Can you do a piece, we need it tomorrow morning,” [laughs]. I didn’t have the luxury of doing it by hand, so most of it ended up digital. But I didn’t like the results as much, so I stopped years back. Doing stuff digitally, it had too much choice.

A lot of your work is series based. Are you letting the feel of it guide you, or are you trying to pursue any particular motifs or themes?:

Most of my stuff starts with words, so I jot stuff down, and then I do slightly terrible little rough drawings. I fell into doing series of things without even meaning to, but I find it a really helpful discipline, it kind of takes the pressure off and just means that you can continually work and play and keep yourself ticking over.??I did a series called Make Mountains that involved me cutting out hundreds of church towers from a series of old books that I’d found. I removed the church towers, and even from the first one that I did I loved what I was left with: the sky and the trees, and the graveyards, and the hedges, and then a big gap in the middle. Then, literally just by taking that and laying it over something else, I started growing a whole series of well over 70 pieces. The side bit of it, the bit that I was supposed to throw away, it became the focus.

And is it easy to walk away from a piece and call it finished?:

Some of them do feel like a bit of a struggle. Sometimes they just flow, whereas other times it can be a bit painful, which is ridiculous to say when you’re pushing bits of paper around [laughs].??I would say that I’m easily pleased, but I’m not easily pleased, that sounds wrong. I do get a good sense of when something’s finished, and I suppose part of that is having overworked things when I was younger. And that’s the other thing about working with a physical collage: once you’ve cut something out and stuck it down, you can’t really take it off. You can cover it up, whereas in Photoshop you can just turn that layer off or undo that terrible accident [laughs]. Which, again, I think lends itself to you overworking something, or it becoming boring.

Finally, I’m interested to know how your studio space influences the work itself?:

I think because I’m surrounded by all the stuff I need to make the work, that has formed exactly how the studio looks. My wife is very minimal, and I’m very maximal and a collector of things, so our house is fairly sparse apart from this room. I’m running out of space, because I’m surrounded by piles of books and suitcases full of bits of paper, but it definitely is the place where I feel the most me. I am slightly worried I’m going to cave myself in like a massive hoarder. I mean it all has its place, and it is fairly tidy, especially after I tidied it up the other day for the shoot, but if I don’t get more space I will probably end up boxed in. I’ll feature on some terrible TV show in 20 years where they have to dig me out, which is why I’ve got to keep making [laughs]. Collaging is stopping me from entombing myself like an Egyptian pharaoh.

Mark Lazenby lives and works in Hertfordshire. He has an MA from the Royal College of Art (a ‘Masters in cutting and sticking,’ as his mum affectionately terms it), and has exhibited his work all over the world.

Interview by Nathan Sharp, Photography by John Spinks. See the whole Albam article here

Interview "A Lesson in Craft: the topsy-turvy collages of artist Mark Lazenby" by Natasha Levy for "Inigo" in their Almanac section:

"A Lesson in Craft: the topsy-turvy collages of artist Mark Lazenby
Inigo speaks with the London-based designer, and cut-and-paste virtuoso, about how paper has become his playground.

It’s not often that one sees a plane bursting through a fireplace, blocks of cheese floating up above the ordered pews of a church, or a giant piece of hard candy abandoned on a beach, but in the strange, dream-like scenes that artist Mark Lazenby fashions within his collages, almost anything appears possible.

This surreal quality, of course, is part of the nature of collage: it’s a medium which allows the artist to assemble random, and sometimes incongruous elements to form a new whole. The term stems from the French “coller”, meaning to glue or stick together, and can be traced back as early as 200 BC, but the medium gained major traction during the 20th century when it was picked up by the likes of artists Georges Braque and Pablo Picasso, who would use mixed scraps of paper to form jumbled still lives depicting fruit, instruments and household ornaments.

Mark’s own artwork offers a fresh take on this practice, creating strange juxtapositions of the beautiful and the banal through the manipulation of vintage lifestyle and interiors magazines. It’s a method he’s been developing all his life, from early experiments as a teenager at school to his enrolment on what his mother jokingly referred to as “a masters in cutting and sticking” at the Royal College of Art. Mark is now a full-time artist and has also been art director of the revered design magazine The World of Interiors since 2004, two occupations which he says “work hand in hand”. Below he talks more about his beginnings with collaging and the process behind his recent Turned Room series, which sees him cut-up and flip photographs of striking domestic spaces – in turn, Mark not only reimagines these rooms of the past, but overturns our visual understanding of the home.

“Reality has changed and shifted.”

“The ‘Turned Room’ series came out of my exploration of how the world has totally been turned on its head, especially over the last year, and how everything we know has changed and looks so different. Even the confines of our own homes don’t look or feel the same. Reality has changed and shifted but often we don’t see what is right in front of us.

“The series has also come out of the use of circles in my work. For the last five or more years I have been working in many different shape formats; I think it is weird that people mainly work within the confines of a rectangle.

“I feel very blessed to have had a studio space to work in, especially during the pandemic. This is where most of my work is physically made, but most of my ideas form while I am out walking or am sat in prayer. I also find it useful to allow pieces to develop over a period of days or weeks, especially for my larger works, allowing time to change them rather than ploughing on headfirst for ten hours a day.”

“I am always open to giving any form of paper a home.”

“Sometimes I have a very clear vision of what I want to make right from the start, whereas other pieces I just allow the elements to spontaneously build and see where it goes. A little like how Paul Klee took his ‘line for a walk’, my compositions grow, and I’ll do battle with them, tame them until I am happy. I love the element of surprise or mistakes in a piece too…

“I am very particular about the feel and quality of all the paper and elements that I use. I also love the juxtaposition of bringing together a sheet of paper that is 200 years old with something more recent, merging these unconnected things – it just has a certain magic to it for me. I think having this slightly disparate style keeps me on my toes and keeps me pushing forward. I don’t just want to keep creating the same piece over and over again.

“I have a large collection of old printed matter from the 1940s, 50s and 60s which is always being cut up, so I am always on the lookout in markets, antique shops and book shops as well as online.

“People will quite often just turn up with random things for me that they have found or no longer have space for; for example a few years ago I had a message from someone on Twitter saying they had four boxes full of women’s magazines from the 60s and 70s – they proceeded to bring a box every day on the back of their moped for me, and these have been a really valuable resource. I am always open to giving any form of paper a home.”

“I am fascinated with how collecting and collections affect the space you live in.”

“Apparently from when I first learnt to walk, I would carry a bag around with me putting all my favourite things in it. As I grew older, I collected loads of things from key rings and smurfs, to beer mats and postcards. I believe that my collecting habits then evolved into part of my investigation of collage – I am fascinated with how collecting and collections affect the space you live in and then how it effects your work and life.

“I always drew a lot as a child but would often get frustrated with the outcome – I always knew I wanted to be work within the creative world but didn’t know what or how. When I studied graphic design to start with at school, it was all still handmade so every word would have been cut out of photocopies of Letraset pages or drawn; I just had a natural affinity to it and a connection started there.

“Making collage is just something I have to do to be me.”" See whole Inigo article here

Article "Mark Lazenby continues to amaze with his latest collages" by Rebecca Fulleylove for "It's Nice That":

"Mark Lazenby is the go-to guy for collage that just works. We last featured the artist two years ago and since then his portfolio of pieced together artworks has exploded with even more impressive works and a real exploration of materials and collage techniques.

Having worked in this medium for over twenty years now, Mark’s ability to switch between pieces with intricate narratives to ones completely stripped back to single elements placed next to each other is really exciting to see. The variety of imagery within Mark’s work reminds us of his skill at sourcing such a wealth of papery inspiration.

Currently exhibiting at London pop-up gallery Maybe a Vole with Liam Stevens, the exhibition is great chance to physically see his artistic orchestrating of disconnected images, objects and typography. But for those not in the city, fear not as Mark’s website is just as fulfilling with an archive of his work dating back to 1993." See the whole It's Nice That article here

Article "Revealing volumes - literally, hypothetically - Mark Lazenby shows us his Bookshelf" by Bryony Quinn for "It's Nice That":

"Sharing his Bookshelf with us this week is collage artist Mark Lazenby. Prolific in both design and art contexts, Mark works with a huge range of narrative and abstract material, undoubtedly pulling from the wise words of others to help realise such idiosyncratically communicative pieces. Read on for his top five literary touchstones, ranging from Basquiat to Hesse." See the whole It's Nice That article here

Article "Celebrating the supreme talents of cracking collage maker Mark Lazenby" by Rob Alderson for "It's Nice That":

"Collage is an art-form that can occasionally carry a whiff of the emperor’s new clothes, and there’s an over-abundance of uninspiring work that seems to have little sense of itself. The knock-on effect of this is that when a real star comes along, you can spot him immediately, though we’re by no means the first to appreciate the uber-talent of Mark Lazenby. Over two decades the man has made collages for almost all the top names in media-land, from The Guardian and The New York Times to Vogue, Wired and GQ – he can also boast Sir Peter Blake as a fan.

But when the work is this consistently good, we’re not ones to eschew a good old-fashioned bandwagon jumping. Mark is able to switch between dazzlingly effective communication of a single, simple idea and more convoluted pieces which hint at several narratives simultaneously, plus he uses typography in a really interesting way. Why not lose yourself in his website for an hour/afternoon?" See the whole It's Nice That article here