An assemblage of Americana
Ripped, transformed, and then injected with a healthy dose of nostalgia, Anthony Zinonos' collages are playful commentaries on the way we choose to go about our lives. Through fantastical settings and graphic souvenirs of Americana consumer culture, his witty depictions pack a powerful message about societal evolution.
Zinonos is a man of the world. Born in Johannesburg, South Africa, he spent his teenage years in Cyprus before moving to the edges of eastern England. He studied at the Norwich School of Art and Design and spent a year in Athens studying photography. As a child, all he did was draw and draw, but this medium frustrated him as a teenager. He wanted to make his works more realistic but didn't have the "skills or patience to learn," he tells us. "My dad showed me how to use a camera, then process and develop the film, which I took to like a duck to water." He went on to major in Fine Art specializing in Print and Photomedia. All the while continuing to experiment with collage, something he later returned to after working in photography, screen printing, film, and animation. He says the process of collage always felt natural to him, and years later, he says he "still feels excited to up a book or magazine and search for something to cut out and create something new with."
He swapped the turbulent climate of Norfolk for the sub-tropical one of California. In some ways, his body of work is a reflection of the West Coast. His hand-cut paper approach is vibrant and sometimes abstract. The intent is to investigate space and composition, a technique that is supposed to "leave room for the viewers to form their unique narratives," he says in The Age of Collage 3. From a miniature surfer cutting through deep blue paper waves to cut-and-glued sun soakers rooted in the principles of the past, Zinonos talks us through his processes and the art of collage.
Did you have a muse growing up or a source of inspiration?
Most definitely, my father, he is a keen photographer and recently started painting again. We always had art books and magazines around the house. He would take the family to gallery shows, museums, and art house cinemas. He has continually worked in the creative fields in South Africa, where he owned a screen printing factory, then later in Cyprus, this time working in advertising. Visiting him at work was such a mind-blowing adventure! He taught me how to stop and look at things, be it a painting in a gallery or the packaging of a juice in a supermarket.
What made you want to work with mediums from yesteryear, and do you have a go-to?
I love the paper and print quality of old books and magazines. There is also a sense of nostalgia—the materials are from a time before me, and they hold history and remind me of looking at old family photographs. To me, they represent a simpler time before Photoshop, digital cameras, and the internet, where there was room for unpredictable, handmade errors in the process. My current go-to's are Sunset magazines and books from 1960 to 1970s, I'm a sucker for travel and leisure material!
There is a vintage Americana aesthetic to your style. Does this era mean anything in particular to you?
I'm fascinated by the Baby Boom era in America as it led to so much amazing design and style. There was a real shift in how people lived, it was a time when many first started having money to travel and buy into luxury. To me, this was the real 'American Dream' era.
What made you move to California?
My wife and I met at art school in Norwich, we both shared a fascination with the United States, particularly the West Coast. We used to save up money all year and go on a month-long trip each year during winter to break up those long, dismal winters in Britain. We'd drive around and buzz out on the sun, food, giant thrift stores, and all things Americana. It was always our dream to live in California, and we finally managed to pull it off just in time to see Trump get elected... What time to show up? Living in California is incredible. The weather alone makes it, plus all the national parks, beaches, and strip malls full of hidden treasures.
What role does humor play in your style?
I would much prefer to make someone smile or laugh than shock or anger them. I feel like humor helps relax the viewer, and in turn, they are more open to the work and willing to connect to it on a personal level.
Where do you find inspiration in the day-to-day? How do you then translate this into a personal project or commission?
My surroundings are a big influence. I'll be out walking the dogs and notice how a building cuts into the sky or the angle of how a shadow falls and think how can I show this in my work or exaggerate that composition. Those thoughts then float about in my head until I stumble across the right image back in my studio and get cutting and sticking.
How would you describe your relationship with the color blue, or water in general? It plays a prominent role in your work…
Oh man, I love blue! To me, it's a very calming and therapeutic color, which I can say the same for the feeling of water. I guess I'm a true water sign. We had a pool at our home in South Africa, and I spent so much time in it playing, floating about, or trying to stay underwater for as long as possible staring at the distorted world. I remember wearing my swimwear under my school clothing so as soon as I got home I could jump right in.
Talks us through the 'How Amazon hid its safety crisis’ collage on Amazon Prime. What was going through your mind and why did you want to create that?
The idea behind those illustrations for 'Reveal' was to create them using Amazon packaging. I'm very aware of how wasteful their packaging is and the environmental impact of the majority of it landing up in landfills, so I was keen to reuse it in a way against Amazon. It was a fun commission to work on and a great art direction by Sarah Mirk.
Do you prefer to start a conversation or stir up controversy with your art pieces?
Delve into The Age of Collage 3, a celebration of the best and cutting-edge in contemporary collage.