John Stezaker, Bird mask, woman , collage, black and white

Precise Enigmas

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In issue 8 of Photoworks magazine, David Campany looked at John Stezaker's work.

I have no idea how John Stezaker makes his art. This may seem odd given that it is patently clear he works with the collage or montage of appropriated imagery. What I mean is that I cannot tell how he has arrived at his choices, either of image, or cut, or combination.

My first impulse is to see in his art something of dreamwork that Freud laid out so well in 1899. For the dreamer space and time do not obey the logic of shared waking life. The unconscious may displace and condense wildly different fragments of experience, splicing them seamlessly into an imaginary whole according to some hidden logic. The raw material for the dream may be as likely to come from deep in the past as from ‘the day’s residues’. The dreamer involuntarily sifts and reconfigures the bits and pieces that have left their ineffable impressions upon the mind. Such a reading is somewhat confirmed by the nature of Stezaker’s source images. Many are film stills: washed-up fragments of long-forgotten movies from the collective dream factory that was Hollywood’s heyday. This would make Stezaker a re-dreamer, of sorts.

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