Child of the Mantic Stain, 2015
Acrylic on paper
Mouth to Mouth Interview
Dawn Ades, CBE, curator, educationalist, Fellow of the British Academy, former Tate trustee, Professor of History of Art at the Royal Academy, and author of Photomontage (Pantheon, 1976) talks to artist Linder, about her work, and her finely-crafted, fascinating and X-rated monograph, published by Ridinghouse.
Linder, born in Liverpool (1954, aka Linda Sterling) has eight items of early work in the permanent collection at Tate Britain. Exhibited internationally, with solo UK shows at The Hepworth Wakefield, and Tate St Ives, her career spans almost four decades. Once muse to Morrissey, she acknowledges her debt to surrealism, expressionism and punk. Best known for her record sleeves for The Buzzcocks, she creates photomontages, often obscuring the more graphic details of heterosexual and homosexual pornographic images with overlaid flowers, or everyday household commodities. In her latest work (above) she is experimenting with a different medium.
Girls of the World X, 2012
The Myth of the Birth of the Hero II, 2012
Dawn Ades You mentioned that you are including a single work from this new period of experimentation in the book, a kind of endnote (Child of the Mantic Stain, 2015 (above)). And the crucial thing, as you were saying earlier, is that it is no longer a photomontage.
Linder It is definitely not photomontage. I’m not quite sure what it is yet, it feels new and very exciting.
The Berlin dadaists chose to call themselves monteurs rather than artists to distinguish their activity from collage, which was already part of a modernist tradition with cubism.
I made my early photomontages with the same curiosity as a mechanic lifting up the bonnet of a malfunctioning car. I was already familiar with a lot of the artists – Hannah Höch, John Heartfield, El Lissitzky, Raoul Hausmann and Max Ernst, but your book Photomontage encouraged me to look far more deeply at the connections between each artist. [Books] provided me with a new visual vocabulary, as well as a verbal one, introducing words such as ‘photomontage’, ‘clitoris’ and ‘hegemony’, all of which I use still. When I was eighteen, in 1973, I enrolled at Manchester Polytechnic on a Foundation Course in Art and Design. I thought that I would find like-minded souls with whom I could swap notes about Millet, de Beauvoir and the Brontë sisters – they all seemed equally important at the time. It wasn’t quite what I had hoped for. We studied briefly in each department to experience the courses on offer at degree level: textile design, industrial design, fine art, advertising, etc. I chose to study graphic design. I felt that I stood more chance to
When did you begin cutting images up?
It was only in the summer of 1976, that I began to use the scalpel as a creative instrument. As we began to come of age, musically, sartorially and graphically, we started to cut things up – we cut up our hair, our coats and our magazines. We painted the walls of our bedrooms black, wore bin bags as dresses, our underwear as outerwear, dog collars instead of diamanté and dyed our hair with Crazy Colour, [but] I was far happier sitting in my room on a Saturday night studying Lissitzky’s Wolkenbügel than dancing to [Rod Stewart's] Tonight’s the Night in Rafters nightclub in Manchester. I wanted to make stab incisions into the host culture around me.
Making your incisions in the magazine pictures was pretty aggressive, as an initial move.
Over the years, the cuts made by my scalpel have all had a mood of their own, alternately violent, sensual, cold, premeditated or spontaneous, depending upon my mood and the work that I wanted to create.
With many of the photomontages, the addition is clear. The latest household goods, for example, in one of the sequences in Pretty Girls: hoover, stereo, TV. But in others the relationship is more ambiguous, for instance between bodies and food, the cakes, buns, biscuits. Then with the flowers, the roses in particular, sometimes they’re paired with pornographic images, sometimes with ballet dancers.
I use pornographic imagery variously as a decoy, bait, a lure, a fake aesthetic arrest; I have to stop people in their tracks somehow. The cut-out cakes, buns and biscuits floating on the pornographic pictorial plane simultaneously coax and repel. So, the bun and the breast both vie for our attention; the visual engineering gives equal torque to both engines of desire; the prizes on offer for the winner may be sugar, semen or both. The rose, the iris, the orchids and lilies work in different ways.
Roses have been a strong, sustained part of your iconography…
I love the litany of rose names: Super Star, Peace, Tiffany, Red Radiance, Proud Land, Crimson Glory, Pink Peace, Bewitched, Fragrant Cloud, Europeana, New Dawn, Christian Dior. Somebody, somewhere must have decided that the vermillion petals of their new rose should be christened Super Star. Meanwhile the women in Playboy were only ever given one name: Tania, Carole, Suzy, Lena.
Does [the 1970s] period have a more personal meaning for you? You also go back and use magazines from the 1950s and 60s, don’t you?
I often use imagery from the early 1970s. I also went through a phase of making photomontages using 1950s glamour magazines, adding one rose to each. They’re restorative; something blossoms there rather than stasis. As a very young child, my step-grandfather would show me glamour photography. I couldn’t read books very well then but I could read the change in the sexual charge in the air.
Those were pornographic images? This was nudes? Glamour photography?
Yes, these were pornographic images and it happened to me from a very young age – from around three years onwards. My step-grandfather engineered a very incestuous relationship with his granddaughter. I look back at similar images in my archive and try to work out who was trying to cast glamour upon whom in that upstairs bedroom in Liverpool.
Pretty Girls, 1977 / 2007 (detail)
Pigment print of original artwork
Against Interpretation, 2012
Duratrans on lightbox
Edition of 3 + 1 AP
You say you just work on a kitchen table, but you must have an archive of material?
I have a large archive of material that’s very well organised by year and subject. There are rows of storage boxes labelled variously with, ‘Lips: Glossy’, ‘Birds: British’, ‘Gay Porn: Contemporary’, ‘Ballet Books: 1940s’, ‘Cake Decorating Books: 1960s’, etc.
You’ve worked with fashion, with pornography, but also with very ‘domestic’ images. How do these function in your work?
The domestic images ventriloquise the everyday, that with which we are most familiar and which we feel most in control of. A cut-out photograph of a coffee percolator which has migrated from the world of interior design to the claustrophobic world of the glamour model – as in Pretty Girls – immediately presents a sphinx-like conundrum. The objects of desire, the shiny new kettle and the nude, parade before us, each one vying to foreground the other. Something peculiar happens when they both inhabit the foreground at the same time.
There must be a certain amount of glee in the subversion, and deconstruction, of the images.
I sometimes laugh out loud at the work that I make.
This text above is composed of edited excerpts from the complete interview which appears in the Ridinghouse book Linder, from which all of the images are also taken.
Text excerpts © Linder and Dawn Ades, courtesy Ridinghouse, London
All images by Linder, © Linder, courtesy Stuart Shave / Modern Art, London
Linder in conversation with Dawn Ades
Published by Ridinghouse 2015
Hardback, 270 pp
225 colour images
Tell us what you think
The Blog is about art, architecture, books, design and gardens, and anything else that currently interests us which we think might interest you.
The Blog’s publishers insist that all images supplied for publication in our posts are cleared for that use before being sent to us. Whether pictures are sent to us as email attachments or made available as downloadable files, any responsibility for fees which may, under any circumstances whatsoever, fall due, must be borne by the source supplier