The ‘master of slicing and splicing’ at City Gallery Wellington

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The first New Zealand exhibition from award-winning British artist John Stezaker opens at City Gallery Wellington in late August. Known for his distinctive, often deceptively simple collages, Stezaker has been working since the 1970s, but only recently gained major recognition. In 2011, he had a retrospective at the Whitechapel Gallery, London, and, in 2012, he won the Deutsche Börse Photography Foundation Prize, even though he does not take photographs. 

Lost World includes 40 collages, along with five sculptures and a video Crowd, which presents thousands of populous film stills, twenty-four per second, in a bewildering blur.

Stezaker says collage is about stuff that has ‘lost its immediate relationship with the world’ and ‘involves a yearning for a lost world’. His collages feature obsolete images: antiquated film stills, actor and actress head shots and vintage postcards. 

In this time of Photoshop, which makes melding images a breeze, Stezaker prefers to make collages the traditional way, working with his source images as he finds them, exploiting the ways they fit and don’t fit together. 

The Guardian called Stezaker the ‘master of slicing and splicing’. He explores a repertoire of collage techniques. He places postcards on head shots, creating surreal fusions of landscape and face. He grafts head shots to create new gender-and-genre-blending characters. He crops or cuts holes in images to reorient their dramas and reroute their meanings. 

“There is something very odd, even unnerving about cutting through a photograph,” Stezaker says, “It sometimes feels like I am cutting though flesh.”

City Gallery Chief Curator Robert Leonard says, “Stezaker’s work is nostalgic. His images hail from a pre-feminist age, when men were men and women were women, when gender was more defined and constrained—especially in the movies. Stezaker seems to both revel in and disrupt stereotypes, making them dance to his own tune.”

Lost World will travel on to Govett-Brewster Art Gallery (9 December 2017 – 4 March 2018) and Christchurch Art Gallery (24 March – 22 July 2018). The accompanying exhibition catalogue features an essay by curator Robert Leonard and an interview with the artist by British art critic David Campany. John Stezaker is represented by The Approach, UK. 

John Stezaker Lectures

Auckland, Thursday 17 August, 6:30pm, Starkwhite 
Christchurch, Tuesday 22 August, 6pm, Christchurch Art Gallery
Wellington, Saturday 26 August, 2pm, City Gallery Wellington 

John Stezaker: Lost World, 26 August – 19 November 2017
City Gallery Wellington, Free entry 

For all media enquiries, contact Olivia Lacey, 021 022 40312, Olivial@experiencewellington.org.nz

Image: John Stezaker Mask (Film Portrait Collage) CCVXI 2016. Courtesy The Approach, London.