About the work
A conventional 1940s photographic portrait takes on a startling new identity in Mask XLII, a collage by John Stezaker. A vintage tinted postcard superimposed upside down onto a publicity still of an unidentified film or theatre actress, creates a disconcerting visual effect. In the kitsch postcard, the shapes of fluffy kittens posed on a wooden handcart assume the missing facial features of the woman in the photograph. One wheel replaces an eye, the cart’s handles replace the slant of her nose, and the two white kittens form her lips. From his 2007 series, Masks, Stezaker’s work plays with the meaning and function of a mask. The woman’s identity is concealed by a strangely grotesque mask of reconfigured motifs which conceal both her glamorous public face and her innermost psychological state.
Over five decades, Stezaker has produced multiple collage series in which images collide to create mesmeric impressions, clearly influenced by the use of found imagery in Dadaist and Surrealist art. Interviewed by David Campany in 2018, (see John Stezaker: Lost Worlds (Ridinghouse, London, 2018), the artist reveals his discovery of collage as a student:
‘I had a collection of photographs before I went to college; postcards mostly, a sepia dog calendar that I remember with affection, and my mother’s old shopping catalogues. The first paintings I did, when I started at the Slade in 1967, were enlargements of tiny collages made from shoe adverts … The paintings were not as interesting as the collages, and the collages were not as interesting as the original images. This led to a crisis in my first year, which resulted in my giving up painting. I realised that nothing I could do with these images, which I found fascinating, improved on them, and that, in order to be fascinated by an image, it already had to be there, it had to be found’.
About the artist
John Stezaker (1949 - )
- Mask XLII
- height: 23.50 cm, width: 18.70 cm
- Purchased from The Approach, March 2011
- none visible
- The Approach, London
- GAC number