John Stezaker has been centrally influential in a number of developments in art over the last three decades; from Conceptual Art, New Image Art through to the contemporary interest in collage. Showing first as a part of the British Conceptual Art group in ‘The New Art’, 1972 (the first Hayward Annual), Stezaker’s interest in the concept soon gave way to a long-term fascination with the image, finding new aesthetic allegiances with the image through working with found photographs and printed matter. This fascination is translated into alterations, deletions, visual concordances and juxtapositions of disparate sources, intuitively creating new images, relationships, characters and meanings.
Stezaker’s investigations continue to develop in this exhibition of new works that concentrate specifically on the portrait. The ‘Masks’ pursue Stezaker’s ongoing interest with the hidden face. Found postcard images obscure and replace the subject’s physiognomy, leaving a ‘surround’ of hair, neck and clothes. In Pairs, (2007), the postcard masks the heads of couples, so that the point where they meet or embrace is fused by a superimposed image to surreal effect. Cavernous landscapes take the place of facial features and blend them into imagined narrative possibilities. In the series Nest, (2007), the image of an owl re-appears as the masking element that plays on the aesthetic and psychological quality of the nest and the symbolism of the owl to create the ambiguous synthesis between the figures and the collaged elements.
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