Amidst his series of shadowy cowboy collages, artist Michael Tunk has teamed up with John Vochatzer to make Lord of the Flies, a collage series that as the name suggests, reimagines your favorite group of British boys stranded on an island as amalgamated paper cutouts.
The collaboration consists of seven stark portraits of William Golding’s lost boys, collaged primarily from medical magazine illustrations drawn by Frank Netter over half a century ago. The meticulous creations manage to be visually alluring while also possessing a degree of uncanny valley eeriness, a paradoxical feel reminiscent of the collaged figures in the music video for Franz Ferdinand’s 2004 single "Take Me Out."
Ralph, the chief of the boys, is depicted with a floral and aviary head arrangement and turtle shell shoulder pads, while his legs are wrapped in diaper-like casts. The physically frail Simon is depicted with a sickly-green face, large, drooping bug eyes, and infected scars. Flashes of his body reveal womanly breasts and an oversized hand covered in oozing scars and cuts. These are not flattering or romanticized portraits, nor are they grounded in a familiar reality; these are humorous and allegorical depictions of these fictional and often savage characters.
Tunk and Vochatzer’s Lord of the Flies marks the first time the two artists have come together for a concrete project rather than “goofing around or brainstorming potential ideas,” as Vochatzer tells The Creators Project. “The series grew organically out of the process of just toying around with images and cut-outs in an attempt to get some collaborative rhythm going.”
Almost by chance, the pair suddenly stumbled upon the potential for something more cohesive. “Tunk had this giant stack of these Frank Netter magazines from the 80s in his studio that I always ogle each time I’m over there, and one day, we started building figurative pieces based off all these outdated pediatric illustrations,” adds Vochatzer. “That, combined with our penchant for natural history and the inherent pieced-together aesthetic of collage art, made these characters that had a real post-civilization and feral-children vibe, so we decided to just keep going with that.”
The decision to frame the project around Lord of the Flies, however, wasn’t an entirely arbitrary decision. “Although it’s a timeless concept, I think the story of lost or abandon children trying to reconstruct some semblance of mythology and civilization is more pertinent now than ever, considering the fragility of times we live in,” says Vochatzer. “Collage, in itself being a reassembling of the often-forgotten fragments of culture and history, is, in a way, the perfect means to communicate this.”