Collage cycles based on literary works include:
Dante's Inferno - 36 collages, 12 each for Hell, Purgatory and Paradise (1976)
EA Poe – 12 collages to accompany each verse of the translation of Edgar Allen Poe’s poem The Raven (6 of the collages published in: Jahresring: Jahrbuch für Kunst und Literature, 83/84)
ETA Hoffmann (1982) - A selection of collages based on Hoffmann's life (1979), used as a backdrop to the play, Hoffmann’s Verbrennung =The Burning of Hoffmann by Wolfgang Held (published Bamberg, 2013).
Kafka – A cycle of 26 collages accompanied by passages from Kafka’s work (2014)
During the period Wolfgang Held was working in London between 1973 and 2016 he produced a significant body of collage and assemblage pieces inspired by the wide-ranging cultural interests as represented in the broad ranging scope of his Literary Works. The works include complex literary collage cycles as well as many free-standing assemblage objects that he referred to as ‘Scrap Myths’.
Clearly falling under a Dada and surrealist aesthetic, the works utilise cut-out photo-collage combined with the application of token 3D material elements and found objects. The final works are both intellectually layered and visually dynamic. Some pieces are dark with sharp edges (literally!), whilst other works can be witty and light-hearted.
Born in Freiburg, south Germany, in 1933, Held was a self-imposed exile who moved to Britain in 1971. One of his earliest assemblage figures was entitled Rabenkind, the Raven Child (1983), the raven symbolising darkness and death. He saw himself as the Raven Child confronted by evil which he witnessed in his childhood in Nazi Germany and World War II. He had difficulty coming to terms with Germany’s Nazi past and the betrayal of German culture it represented.
The collage cycle of Dante's Inferno demonstrates clearly Held’s wish to link past and present time with the figures of Dante and Virgil being confronted with images from the Vietnam war. This linking of past and present event is also shown in a collage novel Held published in 1979 called: 79 – Ein Brief des Jungeren Plinius = 79 - A Letter from the Younger Pliny (Frankfurt am Main: Suhrkamp, 1979). Each page of text is accompanied by a collage (85 collages in total).
Held’s 'scrap myths' and collages operate on a number of different levels: images from myths, with mirror shards and scraps of black velvet are juxtaposed with images from the animal world and present-day life which together evoke a subconscious dreamscape. The assemblages are given a further powerful impact through the incorporation of real objects such as chicken wire, clocks, discarded bicycle wheels. This juxtaposition and combination of elements allows Held to deal with eternal universal themes such as memory, time, death and rebirth.
Throughout his life Held was inspired by key writers, artists and musicians. Many of his collage cycles took their starting point from poems, prose works or paintings. Consequently, the collages are frequently steeped with literary cultural references and demonstrate innovative ways of translating text to image.