Sunday, 27 February 2011

John Stezaker at the Whitechapel Gallery

“Mary, a word. A simple word. Are you there in the cold country? Mountains in your eyes like a tunnel. Your mouth still full, Horses galloping through your pages.” - Lee Ranaldo, To Mary

The imagery in these lyrics always conjures up Stezaker's work in my mind, especially the 'Mountains in your eyes...' line. Stezaker's subjects are a joining of the figurative and landscape, forcing the viewer to look a little closer at what initially looks like a very simple positioning of two images. His interest in found imagery is limitless as he manipulates, slicing and inverting pictures to create unique new compositions, often adding a haunting or ambiguous quality.

In his Masks series, the silent, glamorous movie stars from bygone eras with seemingly featureless faces take on form and expression through the rushing rivers, craggy mountain tops and overhanging branches placed over their posed smiles. The collages give a new meaning, altering the initial focus and subject of each piece.

In other works a rectangle is cut out of the photo; a large, white space, often central to the image, is suddenly desolate and draws the eye towards the outer borders which would have been previously overlooked. Stezaker encourages the viewer to consider the art of looking, and the subtle shift in power that such fragmented images can summon.

His exhibition at the Whitechapel Gallery tracks his work from the 1970s to the present, and is on 'til the 19th March. It's also totally free (with suggested donation) - I'm already planning to head back for another look this week. For more information just click.

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