John Stezaker: Lost World
⬤ Centre for Contemporary Photography 21 Sep - 11 Nov 2018
John Stezaker’s collage entitled Mask (Film Portrait Collage) CLXXIII, 2014, comprises only two elements, a pair of found photographs: a smiling 1940s Hollywood publicity portrait and a picture postcard depicting a stone bridge at Killarney, Ireland, from perhaps sometime between the wars. The postcard is simply pasted over the Hollywood actor’s visage, but it’s deceptively simple. Stezaker’s gesture compels viewers to see the arches of the bridge as a skull’s eye cavities. It triggers an immediate anthropomorphic impulse. Yet simultaneously it evokes a whole series of artistic motifs from the modernist era. For instance, Edgar Allan Poe’s reworking of associations between masquerade and death; Salvador Dalí’s “paranoiac-critical method”, where images suggest multiple things; and Max Ernst’s 1920s collage series that evokes the uncanny. Stezaker’s collages share so many similarities with these themes that the topic of Surrealism is unavoidable. Most of his artworks combine two found photographs, but Stezaker’s practice, as it is shown at CCP, unfolds into a variety of other deceptively simple techniques.