Zealous collector

Whitechapel Gallery has recently exhibited the works of John Stezaker, one of the major British collage artist.

To describe the essence of Stezaker’s practice ‘clever’ and ‘elegant’ seem to be the words. Thought through idea, interesting juxtaposition of images, often only two in one work, precise alignment of a cut. John Stezaker works with images found in books or magazines, film stills, postcards and photographs. He recycles and appropriates them to convey new layers of meaning. According to Bracewell the artist is interested in ”unlocking the possibilities of an image” (Bracewell, 2010, p.28). Stezaker finds inspiration in works of such artists as Marks Ernst, Giovani Piranesi, Victor Burgin or Joseph Cornell. As Bracewell states the artist has worked with the same material as Pop artists but his practice reveals rather critical approach to it. (Bracewell, 2010)

Stezaker’s works are read as metaphores, as texts, often entitled, which defines and prioritises certain meaning. The collage that I find most appealing is ‘Bridge’. A bridge links and facilitate a passage between realms in its literal and metaphorical sense. The image built on juxtaposition of elements and qualities is ”symbolic of connecting worlds (…) or the associative glide between meanings” according to Bracewell (Bracewell, 2010, p.14) and can be read in several ways. The image of a bridge placed between the figures of a boy and a man might symbolise the passage from childhood into an adulthood or could be read as the memory of a carefree, pleasant associations time of a childhood hold by the man. The juxtaposition of black and white figures with colourful image of the bridge might point to a common dream the boy and the man share, an individual has, either young or grown up, of ‘an open space’, ‘blue sky’, ‘postcard’ existence as opposed to mundane, present one of a claustrophobic room.

John Stezaker’s works reflect his passionate, zealous collector approach to images. As he desribes himself the most fascinating attribute of an image is its potential to ”touch on another world” (Lillington, 2008, p.37)

Giovani Piranesi Carceri

Marks Ernst

Joseph Cornell

Victor Burgin Photopath

Bracewell, M. (2010) Behind the Lines: the Art of John Stezaker. In: John Stezaker. London: Ridinghouse and Whitechapel Gallery.

Lillington, D. (2008) A Conversation with John Stezaker. In: Collage. Assembling Contemporary Art. London: Black Dog Publishing.

[Internet] Available from <http://www.whitechapelgallery.org/exhibitions/john-stezaker&gt; [Accessed 20 May 2011]

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