John Stezaker – Double Shadow at The Approach – Duality, both literally and metaphorically. Opening night of a new exhibition at the always rather rewarding gallery space up above the The Approach pub over here in East London. The Approach is a great place to view art, the big walls of the big upstairs room really do let you look properly. Those are sharp edges, John Stezaker’s obviously very very careful process of sharply cutting and repurposing found images allows him to rewrite the narrative of the characters in his cleverly collaged compositions. Compositions that are hanging with plenty of space for each piece to breathe – beautiful compositions, glorious edges, focussed, crisp, clean, subtle, exciting in an understated kind of way, “Implementing the technique of dramatic back-lighting borrowed from Film Noir (a genre that has long been an influence on Stezaker’s work)”. This is immediately a strong show, a subtle show, pieces that don’t shout but rather quietly pull you in to their mystery and demand you linger a little longer over each piece than you might normally do.
Beautifully rich compositions – the photos here on this page really don’t pick up the delight of those crisp edges, the pleasure in the sharpeness – a variety of subtle coloured grounds in deep blues, reds and greens and that striking technique of dramatic back-lighting, it does feel like film, it does feel like Film Noir, a time past, richer times. The pieces are lush, they’re slightly mysterious, they demand you read them – or try to, they don’t give everything away, the pieces demand your imagination. Mystery, a touch of voyeurism, of curiosity, there’s something very intriguing here, something kind of inviting, a feeling of you, the viewer, might be imposing – the dark (almost) void of one (cut-out) figure, or a pair of figures, or an embracing couple intertwined, often a second silhouette that suggests (a lot) more than it might be telling. The crowd in here are quiet, absorbed in individual pieces, there isn’t the usual opening night art crowd gossip, John Stezaker has our full attention, or at least the attention of those of us who have arrived early.
This is a fine fine show, these are quiet pieces, quietly big pieces, not in terms of their actual size, just big pieces, quietly absorbing pieces. A fine fine exhibition, fine fine work, an intriguing narrative, highly recommended. (sw)
The show runs until 26th March, 2022. The Approach Gallery is hidden upstairs above the pub of the same name, they don’t really do signs outside, the mysterious door at the left end of the bar has a red sign above it, that door will get you up to the delights of gallery – 1st Floor, 47 Approach Rd, Bethnal Green, London, E2 9LY. Opening hours: Wednesday – Saturday, 12 until 6pm
Do, as always, click on an image to enlarge or to run the slide show that gives you some of the flavour but not the crispness of the edges.