A collection of the beautiful, the sublime and the ridiculous
This article is from 2007.
When representations of the human face are fragmented through photographic techniques or physically cut and pasted, as in the work of John Stezaker at the Stills gallery, the viewer cannot help but react. This easy appeal to our emotions is exploited by the collagist in work that splices the black and white and sepia faces of beauties from the 40s with other heads, cats’ faces and anthropomorphised scenes of nature.
We are forced to question how natural ‘nature’ is, from the silly smile on the face of the in-bred pussy cat, to nature tweaked and tinted by an expert hand on a holiday postcard. We are left with the nostalgic quality of the images, a dusty residue that adds only superficial patina. Is this the only point of the work? History, as we know, is also created after the fact, so, like nature – that most elusive yet captivating of topics for artists and philosophers alike – history is also an invention. But how do these two concepts relate to each other? Are they merely cut and pasted throwaway philosophical enquiries made by Stezaker? Is there ‘depth’ and should there be? Depth and meaning are also something that the viewer brings to the work, inserted in the gaps between elements of a canvas or pieces of the collage. But this seems like old ground. (Alexander Kennedy)
Stills, 622 6200, until 28 Oct, 11am–6pm, free.