Ilsa Colsell

Research project: Overlay: How can we use layering and obscuring as a strategy for making?


My research centres on the utilisation and perception of layers within composite object making. Looking to both the processes and historical precedents within the composite art object, through collage, sculpture, photography and visual perception theory, my current studio working is engaged in drawing out an expanded taxonomy of layering methods and their attendant potential effects as received by the viewer and deployed by the artist. Studio practice includes working across sculpture, photography, painting, essay form and collage.

Within this body of research I specifically suggest that if by refocusing our attention on the overlaid surface, and looking beyond the severed edges that have come to dominate and historically frame the conversation around collage/composite production, we begin to demonstrate how the process of Overlay itself can offer a vital and renewed vantage point for further, more directed understanding of composite object making as a whole.

  • Research degree: Practice-based PhD
  • Title of project: Overlay: How can we use layering and obscuring as a strategy for making?
  • Research supervisor: Mr Volker Eichelmann
  • Other research supervisor: Mr Mark Harris


As an artist and writer, my career has developed through various strands of making including books, essays, exhibitions of sculpture, performances and collaborations with others.

I maintain a studio practice that draws heavily upon my early study of Sculpture at The Glasgow School of Art. Building upon this foundation my practice seeks to continually learn new techniques and explore different forms of making which support and help manifest the composite objects made in my studio.

As a writer I have written and published a long-form book as well as numerous essays on and alongside the work of other artists, included in exhibition catalogues, artist monographs and in various contemporary art journals.

Throughout my time working within the art world, I have worked within commercial art galleries and public institutions, taught within art and architecture schools and have also been technician, archivist and studio manager for other artists. 

Areas of research interest

  • Overlay
  • Collage, Montage, Layering methods
  • Visual Perception
  • British Modern period artists and their work
  • Censorship
  • The stage set
  • analogue photographic methods
  • Biography
  • Printed matter


  • MA Fine Art, Goldsmiths College, London
  • BA(Hons) Fine Art - Sculpture, Glasgow School of Art, Glasgow

Funding or awards received

  • KU Studentship for Full Time PhD Study at Kingston School of Art, Kingston University
  • Arts Council, Artist Project Funding
  • Arts and Humanities Research Council, Scholarship for MA study at Goldsmiths University
  • Benno Schotz Sculpture Prize



2019   Overlaid, Not Removed - essay. Artist monograph, Stephen Sutcliffe - At Fifty, Published, Sternberg Press & Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh.

2017   Halliwell and Orton – text. Exhibition catalogue, Queer British Art, Tate Britain.

2015   Fake the Nip – published on artist Stephen Sutcliffe's edition of Out of Focus. colsell/

2014   An Accidental Biographer – essay. EROS Journal, Issue 5, Death Vol.1. 

2013   Malicious Damage: The Defaced Library Books of Kenneth Halliwell and Joe Orton - Biography of Halliwell and Orton through the frame of collage, with particular emphasis on their collaborative practice as writers and artists. Longform written project, published with Donlon Books, London with artist funding from Arts Council England. 2009 – 2013. ISBN 978-0957609501

2009   My Hand Flickers Your Deception - essay. Exhib-catalogue, The Dark Monarch, Tate St Ives.

2008 Libera Me In Paradisium - essay. Exhibition catalogue, Past Forward, 176 Gallery, London.

2007   Index To Tears - calligram / essay. monograph, Jesper Just: Film Works 2001 – 2007, pub. Witte de Witt Centre for Contemporary Art, Rotterdam