In times of economic and political instability, nostalgia provides security not afforded by some promise of a brighter future. This summer, the UK – and elsewhere – is obsessed with looking backward. The Queen’s Diamond Jubilee is the most obvious example, but clothes stores are stuffed with 1970s fashions and the current trappings of the Olympics look to our nation’s heritage and the event’s traditions – not its initial mooted purpose to inspire regeneration in deprived urban areas. We even want our snaps to look like warm reminders of better days, hence the popularity of apps such as Instagram to Hipstamatic.

This love of the past has been felt as much in illustration and design as elsewhere, and clients are commissioning work that taps into the styles, sensibilities and sense of simplicity of bygone eras. The best work isn’t just replicating the past, it’s re-imagining and remixing it, and many are bringing a fresh modern approach to collage using vintage photos, illustrations and graphics. Collage itself is nothing new – people have been cutting out and gluing photos almost since they were invented – but the five artists we’ve picked here use retro collage playfully to amuse us, to comment on the world around us and sometimes even to pick apart our obsession with nostalgia. 

Artists featured:

Emil Ásgrímsson

Max Ellis 

Ciara Phelan

Sonia Roy

Sammy Slabbinck

Click the name to be taken to that artists work. You can return to the opening page of this feature by clicking the link at the bottom of each page.