The Approach

John Stezaker

02 Nov - 17 Dec 2006


Stezaker has been centrally influential in a number of developments in art over the last three decades; from Conceptual Art, New Image Art through to the contemporary interest in collage. Showing first as a part of the British Conceptual Art group in 'The New Art', 1972 (the first Hayward Annual), Stezaker's interest in the concept soon gave way to a long-term fascination with the image, finding new aesthetic allegiances with the image through working with found photographs and printed matter. This fascination is translated into alterations, deletions, visual concordances and juxtapositions of disparate sources, intuitively creating new images, relationships, characters and meanings.
Stezaker's investigations continue to develop in this exhibition of new works that concentrate specifically on the portrait. In the 'Love' series, subtle but masterful alterations to found original film star portraits shift and magnify emotion and expression that had before only been implied, sometimes imperceptibly, in the original image. The glamorous and carefully posed faces are subtly transformed into otherworldly, uncanny beings. Stezaker's simple yet disconcerting modifications toy with the subconscious and the surreal. His permutations produce a 'moment of revelation within the universal blindness that the consumption of images has become: a glimmer of consciousness within the unconsciousness of image reception'* In 'Blind', one incision monstrously removes the eyes of the subject completely.
The 'Masks' continue Stezaker's ongoing interest with the hidden face. Found postcard images obscure and replace the subject's physiognomy, leaving a 'surround' of hair, neck and clothes. Playing with ideas of cubism and caricature, Stezaker's series of black and white portraits fuse male and female faces, reflecting the idea of marriage and hybrid symmetry, but also a discord of union. Perhaps the most subtle of found image alterations are the 'Reclined' series; a portrait of a standing woman is simply rotated ninety degrees and presented as a horizontal image to beautiful and unsettling effect.

* 'The Encounter With the Real', interview in Norwich Gallery Dispatch 123

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