Mixed media is a term used to describe artworks composed from a combination of different media or materials

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The use of mixed media began around 1912 with the cubist collages and constructions of Pablo Picasso and Georges Braque, and has become widespread as artists developed increasingly open attitudes to the media of art. Essentially art can be made of anything or any combination of things.

Mixed media vs. multi-media

What is the difference between mixed media and multi-media artworks? While both terms describe artworks that are made using a range of materials, multi-media is generally used to define an artwork that uses or includes a combination of electronic media, such as video, film, audio and computers.

Mixed media artists in focus

Explore the work of three artists who use mixed media in their work:

Phyllida Barlow: Installations from everyday materials

For over four decades sculptor Phyllida Barlow has made imposing, large scale sculptural installations using inexpensive, everyday materials such as cardboard, fabric, timber, polystyrene, plaster, scrim and cement. Her distinctive work is focused on her experimentation with these materials, to create bold and colourful three-dimensional collages.

In this video Phyllida Barlow discusses the dynamic process of installation whilst placing and suspending her large-scale sculptures in the Duveen Galleries for the Tate Britain Commission 2014.

How Phyllida Barlow’s dock influences fashion
Blog describing how Phyllida Barlow’s experimental approach to materials inspired fashion students at the University of the Arts, London.

Exhibition catalogue: Phyllida Barlow
Find out more about Phyllida Barlow’s ideas and work in this online exhibition catalogue for dock, her 2014 installation for Tate Britain’s Duveen Galleries.

Eileen Agar: Beachcombed and ‘found’ objects

From the mid 1930s, Eileen Agar experimented with techniques and new materials to create mixed media objects and collages inspired by the ideas and processes of surrealism.

This video from the Animating the Archives series, reveals some of the processes behind the artist’s thinking, collecting and object-making, as well as the secrets of her personal correspondence. 

MicroTate 9: Angel of Anarchy
Read about Agar’s mixed media work Angel of Anarchy in this Tate Etc. feature

Blog: Tate Archive 40 | 1992 Eileen Agar ‘Surreal Landscape’
Archivist Adrian Glew explores archive material relating to the artist in Tate’s archive

Chris Ofili: Paint, glitter, collage – and elephant dung

Not all mixed media involves making objects. The term can also refer to two-dimensional works that include a range of media. Paint, resin, glitter, collage – and elephant dung (!) – have all been used by artist Chris Ofili in creating his vibrant,  meticulously executed artworks that explore issues of black identity and experience.

In this video, musician Tinie Tempah takes a close look at Chris Ofili’s paintings  – and compares Ofili’s processes of layering materials to making music.

Go behind the scenes at Tate Conservation to explore the materials, processes and techniques used by Ofili in creating his works.

More on Ofili…

Chris Ofili: Exploding the Crystal
Find out more about Chris Ofili’s techniques in this fascinating video of the artist at work in his studio in Trinidad. (Please note: This video includes some images and discussion of paintings that contain adult themes).

Chris Ofili: Exhibition guide
Find out more about the artist and his work in the online exhibition guide to the 2010 exhibition at Tate Britain.

Related glossary terms

Installation art