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Seana Gavin: Heaven, Hell and Everywhere In Between

The London-based visual artist invites you to leave the rules of reality behind and escape in a series of surreal, collaged worlds at Clerkenwell’s 3939 concept space

Surplus artefacts from a generation bursting at the seams with imagery are reworked in visual artist Seana Gavin’s world of hand-cut and paste psychedelic. Giant bats, dystopian bug ridden cityscapes, lush forests, waterfalls, little people and huge toadstools are the building blocks for a surreal realm where the rules of reality no longer apply. One part inspired by childhood impressions from her early years in Woodstock, NY, one part an interest in spirituality, dreams and the endless wonders of David Lynch, and one part an imagination that knows no bounds - Gavin presents you Heaven, Hell and Everywhere In Between.

The exhibit landed in east London just last week for a summer residency at the 3939 concept space in Clerkenwell, where prints of the artwork are also available to buy. Dazed Digital caught up with Gavin after the success of the exhibits launch to talk about reimagining the noise of contemporary life...  

Dazed Digital: Can you tell me how you started making collage?
Seana Gavin: I was always interested in the layering of ripped posters you see on street walls or the underground. I liked the way a new image sometimes appeared from the layering process – like a figure or an eye poking out combined with abstract shapes. This led me to think more about paper as a medium.  I also have a background in still life and set design, which is about arranging objects in a space and creating environments. That also connects to what I do with my collages. I started experimenting with my collage landscapes a few years ago and it all developed really naturally.

DD: Where do you find your materials? Shops markets?
Seana Gavin: I have a forever growing collection of old books and magazines that I find in second hand book shops, charity shops and occasionally online for specific things. I’m mainly drawn to the dated 1970s and 1980s photographic books that are often in the bargain sections.  I love that I am making something new from materials that people discard.

DD: What was the first collage you made?
Seana Gavin: In a way I’ve been doing it my whole life. I’ve always kept folders of inspiring images and postcards. I arrange them in scrapbooks in interesting juxtapositions. But the first official landscape collage I did was a present for someone – it depicted figures and animals in tropical Eden-like surroundings with a futuristic city in the distance. It had surreal elements and some personal references at the time.

DD: Why is it you are drawn to the unreal?
Seana Gavin: Because there is more freedom within the unreal. I’m attracted to different levels of consciousness where rules of reality don’t apply – such as gravity and scale.  I think the unreal also connects to my childhood memories. Children are so imaginative.  I think I find it easy to tune into that.

DD: How would you describe your work?
Seana Gavin: I use found photographic imagery to create surreal fantasy landscape collages inspired by spirituality, dreams, science fiction, psychedelic experience and my childhood spent in Woodstock NY. The work is also a response to the overload of imagery and visual noise in our contemporary life. In some ways I’m an image recycler.

DD: What is your idea of the perfect fantasy world? Is there a book, moment in time, film, or artwork that taps into the same ideas in your work and that you can relate to?
Seana Gavin: A combination of Twin Peaks and Hieronymus Bosch paintings, the films ‘Altered States’ by Ken Russell, ‘Koyaanisquatsi’ directed by Godfrey Reggio and ‘Yellow Submarine’.

DD: What do you want people to take from the exhibit?
Seana Gavin: I’d like my work to feed into the viewer’s dreams and maybe for them to experience a moment of escapism from their regular lives.

DD: What projects have you got coming up or would like to do next?
Seana Gavin: I am excited to be working on some private commissions at the moment. I would love to collaborate with a designer to create a scarf or fabric. At some point I’d be interested in creating a life-sized set or installation inspired by my collages.  I recently collaborated with photographer Virgili Jubero for the first issue of an Ibiza-based magazine Amnesia. It was for a fashion shoot featuring clothing designed by Jose Miro, who trained with Thierry Mugler. I’d be open to more projects like that.

Heaven, Hell and Everything In Between; Seana Gavin, 3939shop Gallery, 2-4 Old Street, London, EC1V 9AA, 16 June – August 2011. Artworks are now available to buy from the 3939 store and online shop