John Stezaker’s exhibition at The Approach will combine historical works from the 1980s with new collages.
‘Tabula Rasa’ was a title first applied by John Stezaker in the mid 80’s to collages involving rhomboid shaped holes in landscape photographs and film stills, though this device first appeared in Stezaker’s work about seven years earlier. The title was taken from a piece of music by Arvo Part that he composed after a period of creative block, and is said to be related to the artist’s or composer’s dread of the empty page or canvas.
For Stezaker, who works with pre-existing images, the tabula rasa inspires no such dread. On the contrary, his Tabula Rasa series adds to the world of images with a subtraction – by a removal of what is already there. For Stezaker, the Tabula Rasa was an opportunity for fantasy, for creating imaginary studios as stage sets. At times, especially in the early landscape series, the tabula rasa represents a blank canvas, whereas with the cinematic images the collages seem to suggest more of a screen. Many of the subtractive cuts in the Film Still collages relate to an empty white cinema screen or to a projective beam, as in the ‘Excisions’. In a way, they are also like diagrammatic representations of a Cartesian model of perception – the cone of vision, the shadow and the screen.
Around the time of the Tabula Rasa collages, Stezaker was working on a series of large-scale silkscreen prints on canvas. In these works, the use of the same rhomboid shapes create the possibility of a combination between the movement of spatial encounter and a cinematic unfolding of space, all within the confines of the monochrome. In his more recent collages, the tabula rasa cut becomes an aperture through which to enter another world of the image. Sometimes inverted, sometimes involving figurative continuity, the tabula rasa opens up cinema’s uncanny and liminal space in which worlds are created and collapsed. Essential to these worlds created by the viewer’s own projections is the act of looking.
John Stezaker was born in 1949 in England. Recent solo shows include: Richard Gray Gallery, Chicago (2009); Galerie Gisela Capitain, Cologne (2009); Friedrich Petzel, New York (2009); GAK, Bremen (2009); A Palazzo Gallery, Brescia (2008); Galerie Dennis Kimmerich, Dusseldorf (2008); Masks, The Approach, London (2007); Marriages, Karsten Schubert, London (2007); John Stezaker, The Rubell Family Collection (2007). Recent group shows include: Taj Mahal Travellers, Galerie Nordenhake, Stockholm (2009); The Quick and The Dead, Walker Art Gallery, Minneapolis (2009); Source Codes, Sprüth Magers, Berlin (2009); Le sang d’un poète, FRAC des Pays de la Loire (2009); Collage: The Unmonumental Picture, New Museum, New York (2008); Martian Museum of Terrestrial Art, Barbican Art Gallery, London (2008); Past-Forward, 176, The Zabludowicz Collection, London (2008).
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