John Stezaker  Studio Visit 10th February 2016


John Stezaker has a studio in his house so there is little divide between work and home. He says he works best late in the evening when all is quiet, fuelled by coffee. Files, boxes, plan-chests and books surround him - a whole library. Female heads, male heads, limbs, like an anatomists laboratory, all his images are catalogued and divided up for easy retrieval. 

There is a complete archive of film stills waiting to be fractured. Stezaker describes the results of his manipulations, placements and montages as serendipitous. At the moment he is particularly interested in hands- a possible future project. Stezaker keeps all his off-cuts as they will more than likely end up in some work and he hates waste. He is also looking at a project to do with aging; unlike the series Marriage, which joins up slices of male and female heads, this would look at contrasts in age of the matched splices. Stezaker’s manual interventions, though incongruous in their fusions, create credible faces that challenge our expectations of photographic representation.

Stezaker was getting work ready to be selected for an exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery and had a large series of mounted pieces piled up for perusal. He discussed the difficulty with mounting the collages and his method of working. Stezaker gently folds the photographs before cutting in order to have a strong idea of the look, and then makes the decisive slice. The piece is then put away for a long time, sometimes years, before he revisits it to see if he feels it is successful. There is a hierarchy in his plan chest - the best work gradually makes its way to the top drawer.

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