UK artist David Thorpe made his name in the mid 1990s with finely detailed paper collages of London high-rise estates allocated dreamily bucolic settings (above).
These impressive examples of paper-cutting were quickly superceded by works of even greater complexity; virtuoso mixed-media collages in which hundreds of tiny fragments mimic the appearance of paintings or finely detailed prints (below, left).
Depicting visionary structures and landscapes of the artist's own devising, they characterise a constant theme in Thorpe's work, which he describes as "slightly New Age, slightly Space Age, slightly threatening ... I'm absolutely in love with people who build up their own systems of belief."
Notably, too, Thorpe distances himself from collaging methods inspired by modernism, instead adopting pre-20th century techniques such as the paper-cutting and découpage popular during the 18th century and 19th centuries, in which emphasis is placed on a painstaking mimicking of nature.
For Thorpe, the labour-intensivity and hard-earned skills evident in carefully crafted objects - particularly those with an ultimately utilitarian function - are an essential aspect of artistic endeavour.
Closely aligned with the artisanal, it's an ethos which, while partially identifiable in the meticulous hands-on production of much recent contemporary art, veers considerably from a notion of self-enclosed, autonomous creative expression.
Consequently, while recent works by Thorpe continue to explore forms of collage by incorporating materials as diverse as leather, slate, formica, glass, dried grasses and flowers (left), they clearly reference his interest in socially engaged artist-makers such as William Morris, leader of the English Arts and Crafts movement (left and below).
Elements of sculpture, architecture and domestic design are now even more integral to his work, extending the engagement with utopian vision and reformist zeal always apparent in Thorpe's contemporary twists on distinctly less modern values.
San Francisco-based Hilary Pecis has garnered considerable attention for elaborate collaged 'landscapes' bristling with imagery culled from glossy magazines or the internet.
Many of these works also include hand-drawn motifs - intricate, black and white "rock formations" produced using a personal system of codification (above and left).
Recently, Pecis has moved from analogue to digital production (below), a decision which, interestingly, she believes has resulted in more concentrated focus on the works themselves: "... people were much more impressed with the cutting and pasting of actual material and the implied time that they took to make. That was definitely not what I wanted the viewer to think about when they saw the landscapes."
The transition has also led to growing focus on digital techniques and environments themselves, through works that clearly acknowledge the use of mergeable layers in software such as Photoshop, as well as the preeminence - and peculiarities - of online image distribution.
Having searched Google for the 'perfect sunset', for example, Pecis gathered and blended the top 100 image results to create the aptly named 100 Perfect sunsets (above), a wry meditation on logical impossibility and the paradoxes inherent in the categorisation and consumption of digital media.
A similarly shrewd approach to the super-abundance of online imagery informs Better than a Double Rainbow (below).
An interesting adjunct to Pecis' established practice, for us, at least, the witty conceptual enquiry underpinning these latest works proves more appetising than her (admittedly luscious) fictional landscapes.
A promising change in direction that offers food for thought, as well as eye candy.