Dada Photo Montages with Sinead O’Neill Nicholl

Following on from our look at Surrealism, this week artist Sinead O’Neill Nicholl presents a deeper insight into the Dada art movement and the work of acclaimed and influential artist Hannah Höch; part of our series of online workshops exploring important techniques in the history of contemporary art, supported by Halifax Foundation NI.

The first recognised photo montage artworks were made by the Dada Artists in the early 20th century.  The Dada movement began as a response to the violence and horror of the First World War.  The artists involved were anti-war and objected to the ruling classes of the time.  They wanted to change traditional art values and made art, poetry and paintings in a new way. 

Hannah Höch was one of the great Dada artists who worked mainly with photo montage, examples of her artworks can be seen below.

Lots of artists still use collage to make artworks, either as a way of thinking about art or as a finished piece.  Deborah Roberts is a contemporary African American artist who uses collage in her work. 

She makes art as a way of thinking about how and what we think is ‘beautiful’ and she often draws on top of the photo cut-outs. 

BETWEEN THEM (2012) 80 x61 ins, Mixed media collage on Paper; LITTLE DEBBIE SERIES (2019) 12 x 12ins, Mixed media with Collage. Image credits.

You can see some examples of her work here and in the video.  Maybe you could try some too? I’m going to take you through it step-by-step!

Let’s Get Started!

To make the photo montages you will need:

  • Scissors
  • Stick glue or PVA glue*
  • Old magazines, newspapers and leaflets

*Be careful, if you use PVA glue your cut outs can become quite wet and will take a lot longer to dry.

First of all, spend some time looking through your magazines and newspapers and use your imagination to think about how the piece would look if it was cut out.  Some things look very normal in an advertisement but if they are cut out from the magazine, the scale can look very different and this can create an interesting effect (you can see examples of this in the video).

When you are ready, start cutting.  I used safety scissors which are best but don’t forget you can ask an adult for help if you have some tricky or delicate pieces that are difficult to cut. 

Once you have gathered some cut out items, you can begin to place them together on your background but DON’T stick them down yet.   Spend some time having fun with the placement and remember that your background doesn’t have to be a clean white page, get as creative as you like.  You could try using old cardboard packaging or newspapers as your background for different effects.

When you feel happy with your collage work you can glue each piece down wherever you think it looks best.  Look at your cut-outs in a different way, turn them on their side or upside down.  Don’t forget that you can always glue on top of what you have already done or overlap the cut-outs to create new images. 

Remember, there is no right or wrong way to make photomontages or collage.  It should be a fun activity that can produce some amazing results!

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