Cutting Edge: contemporary collage

John Stezaker

contemporary collage - John Stezaker

Although UK artist John Stezaker (b. 1949) has produced his distinctive collages since the 1970s, widespread recognition of his work is relatively recent, his practice 'rediscovered' by the art market and collectors in the mid 2000s.

contemporay collage artists: John Stezaker

Stezaker's distinctive approach to collage is founded on what he describes as "a series of processes of disjunction. First .... finding the image, then various devices to estrange or 'abuse' it..."

These interventions range from actions as simple as turning an image upside down, to complex interweaving of several pictorial sources; many of his most celebrated works, however, feature a combination of just two images.

In Stezaker's work, too, the act of layering and cutting takes on an unusually considered, eloquent role.

John Stezaker

Rejecting the approach to collage whereby specific elements are clipped entirely from their surroundings, Stezaker has stated that "I don't like ... detachment from the original. That's my problem with any process; I am fascinated with the original."

Accordingly, he either avoids destructive intervention by juxtaposing complete images to generate extraordinary instances of visual play (above left) or, in cases where cutting is required to initiate the states of 'estrangement' he seeks, rarely crops beyond a point at which original form and content become entirely obscured.

collage in contemporary art: John Stezaker

This constant movement between the sustained 'semi-presence' of Stezaker's base materials and their cumulative rendition of entirely new readings - a process amounting to the fluctuations of perceptual gestalt - lies at the heart of what makes Stezaker's practice so fascinating - and, indeed, influential, with echoes of his work increasingly noticeable among younger artists.

contemporary collage: John Stezaker

Whether grafting two photographic portraits into an uncanny new visage, exploring fortuitous synchronicities of alignment or instigating bizarrely hermaphroditic identities, Stezaker's keen eye for resonance unwaveringly converts the commonplace into the uncanny, allowing, as he puts it, "... an image to become an imaginary possibility."



Ion Barladeanu

new contemporary collage - Ion Barladeanu

We've already dedicated an article elsewhere to the extraordinary story of this once entirely unknown Romanian artist, but suffice it to say here that Barladeanu has been touted (with some justification) as one of the most important of recent outsider talents.

Ion Barladeanu

For many years a homeless alcoholic, Barladeanu spent much of his time creating hundreds of collages with images salvaged from discarded magazines.

Dangerously critical of former president Nicolae Ceausescu and his regime, the works were secreted away until a chance encounter between Barladeanu and a young artist brought the material to light - and earned Barladeanu unimagined success as the toast of the Bucharest art world and beyond.

This unlikely art star's rags to riches tale fired the imagination of the Romanian public, spawning a Romanian TV documentary which was later released as a film on the art cinema circuit. And although, as the movie makes clear, the transition from down and out to celebrity has not been smooth, Barladeanu's inclusion in Romania's story of recent art looks certain.

contemporary collage - Ion Barladeanu


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