Artist Review – Hans Arp and Chance Art

Some of the more experimental collage work during the Dada period was done by Hans Arp (also named Jean Arp) (1886-1966), who was one of the founding members of the movement in Zuruch in 1916. In his work he attempts to create nonsensical imagery through a process of chance, therefore creating work that has very little conscious decisions being made during the process. Resulting in an irrational image. This particular method involved dropping paper onto a surface, and applying it where it landed. The spontaneity of his images highlights the more – ‘colourful shit’, as Tzara put it in his Manifesto de M.Antipyrine  – that made Dada so relevant to the current times. It was completely unheard of to create ‘art’ that required no conscious input, but before this, you might have found yourself slaving over each detail in your work, that may well result in an over finished piece. This idea of the irrational removes the formal pattern that accompanied work (which later would manifest in Surrealist ideas) and allowed for a new form of art.

Untitled (Collage with Squares Arranged according to the Laws of Chance)

Untitled (Collage with Squares Arranged according to the Laws of Chance)

Here are two examples of Arp’s irrational method, they were not named, as they technically depicted nothing corresponding to reality. Yet this does not exempt them from admiration, as they embody semi-natural features to them. I’m reminded of a nature because they, like the natural world, describes something removed from logical hands, it is not organised to perform, but is simply there, detached from us. However, these pieces are not purely entities of nature, they did not come into being because they happened to be. They were organised to happen, prepared but not executed. Think of a tree, you can plant its seeds and it will grow naturally, you prepare it, but nature takes over after that. Hence, Arp’s irrational images contains some of the natures wildness and energy within a pictorial field of mind.


7 thoughts on “Artist Review – Hans Arp and Chance Art

  1. Drench Coat says:

    I like that idea, I might be able to show some of my uni work that tries to embody it (when I’ve made it). I’m currently doing work about assemblage and I’m trying to develop form through chance.


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