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Stezaker's surreal splices at Christchurch Art Gallery

Stezaker's surreal splices at Christchurch Art Gallery

Monday, 5 March 2018

John Stezaker Pair XXVII 2015. Courtesy of The Approach, London

The first New Zealand exhibition by award-winning British artist John Stezaker—dubbed the “master of slicing and splicing”—opens at Christchurch Art Gallery this month.

John Stezaker: Lost World brings together about forty collages dating from 2006 to 2016, as well as five poignant found-object sculptures—a selection of antique mannequin hands, offering a repertoire of gestures. In addition, the film Crowd presents hundreds of film stills of crowd scenes, each for one frame only, in a bewildering blur.

Christchurch Art Gallery senior curator Lara Strongman says surrealist-influenced Stezaker is resolutely analogue in a digital era.

“Far from being a Photoshop fan, Stezaker prefers to make collages the old-fashioned way, working with scalpel and glue—and a steady hand—to slice images and splice them together in new configurations. He works from a vast personal archive of out-of-date images, mostly old film stills, vintage actor headshots and antique postcards.

“There’s an implied violence in his cuts—through faces and eyeballs. He dismembers images and talks about the fragments as 'image-corpses'. In his work, there’s a constant sense of the image as a body subject to trauma,” adds Strongman.

The Guardian newspaper dubbed Stezaker the “master of slicing and splicing”. He explores a range of collage techniques, placing postcards on headshots to reveal surreal fusions of landscape and features, and grafting faces to create new gender- and genre-blending characters.

Known for his distinctive, often deceptively simple collages, Stezaker has been working since the 1970s but recently gained major recognition for his work.

In 2011, he had a retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, and, in 2012, won the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize, even though he does not take photographs.

Stezaker says collage is about stuff that has “lost its immediate relationship with the world” and “involves a yearning for a lost world”.

“There is something very odd, even unnerving about cutting through a photograph,” he says. “It sometimes feels like I am cutting though flesh.”

Curated by Robert Leonard, Lost World tours to Christchurch Art Gallery from City Gallery Wellington. The accompanying exhibition catalogue features essays by Leonard and art historian Geoffrey Batchen, and an interview with the artist by British art critic David Campany. John Stezaker is represented by The Approach, UK.

John Stezaker: Lost World is on display at Christchurch Art Gallery from 24 March to 22 July 2018. Entry is free.


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