The Big Picture: John Stezaker’s Intriguing Journeys to Nostalgia | art

John Stezaker has made collages throughout his career as an artist, often using stills from film magazines from the 1940s and 1950s. This is from his latest exhibition Double Shadow at the Approach Gallery in London. He doesn’t always recognize the silhouettes in his cutouts, but here the actor with the white-gloved hands on the deck rail has a name: Celeste Holm, the 1947 Oscar winner for her role in Elia Kazans Gentleman’s Agreement

Our guest editor, Jarvis Cocker, has been a fan of these coolly disturbing images – “I love them” – since Stezaker taught him on the film course at St Martin’s School of Art (Stezaker mostly remembers Cocker for his somewhat patchy attendance record on his tutorials, when his music career took off).

They share a kind of nostalgic fascination with the time in which they were born. “I often see the world of these photos as a parental world,” says Stezaker, who was born in 1949. “The contours of man and woman in the 40s and 50s were very well defined. And of course those preview magazines do a lot of silhouette outlines. Often the movie stars were photographed against ridiculous blue skies.”

Stezaker has been drawn time and again to finding ways to make those silhouettes dissolve or to find new ways of interacting. It seems significant that his images mainly date from the period before the 1960s. He wanted, he says, to find a way to shut out the “noise” of pop art collages and instead try to pinpoint an intriguing silence. Over the years, Stezaker has collected and excavated the material for his photographs in boxes of postcards and magazines on market stalls and junk shops. “Yet it always feels,” he says, “that the images find me, rather than I find them.”

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