John Stezaker: Splitting the Golden Age

One month ago he won the prestigious £30,000 Deutsche Börse photography prize (one of international photography's most important prizes): who really is John Stezaker, the artist, who made with his Photo collages a  "documentation of truth, purveyor of memory, and symbol of modern culture"? Stezaker was  born in 1949, in Worcester and he lives and works in London. He was among the first wave of British conceptual artists to react against what was then the predominance of Pop art. His work is surreal in tone and is often made using collage and the appropriation of pre-existing images such as postcards, film stills, and publicity photographs. Art historian Julian Stallabrass said: "The contrast at the heart of these works [by Stezaker] is not between represented and real, but between the unknowing primitives of popular culture, and the conscious, ironic artist and viewer of post-modern images." Through his elegant juxtapositions, Stezaker adopts the content and contexts of the original images to convey his own witty and poignant meanings. In his Marriage series, Stezaker focuses on the concept of portraiture, both as art historical genre and public identity. Using publicity shots of classic film stars, Stezaker splices and overlaps famous faces, creating hybrid ‘icons’ that dissociate the familiar to create sensations of the uncanny. He is fascinated by the lure of images. By adjusting, inverting and slicing separate pictures together to create unique new works of art, Stezaker explores the subversive force of found images. Stezaker’s famous Mask series fuses the profiles of glamorous sitters with caves, hamlets, or waterfalls, making for images of eerie beauty. "It is also interesting in the digital age with Photoshop, hopefully people will appreciate the hand craftsmanship. If you look at them closely, the way he slices them is so finely judged and that is where his skill lies." said Brett Rogers, director of the Photographers' Gallery. "I'm thrilled," continued Rogers. "He really has been unrecognised for such a long time and he is obviously just having his moment. He has been very influential on the next generation and there does seem to be a new generation interested in collage." Until 2006, Stezaker was Senior Tutor in Critical and Historical Studies at the Royal College of Art in London. He is represented in London by The Approach Gallery.

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