John Stezaker's work has recently been shown at Capitain Petzel, Berlin, The Approach, London and A Palazzo, Brescia. A major retrospective of his work runs at the Whitechapel Gallery from 29 January to 18 March


Paper cuts

Courtesy the artist and The Approach, London

In the latter half of the 1980s, I produced a number of collages and silkscreen prints that took their titles from Calvino's stories and collections: "Time and the Hunter"; "Mitosis"; "Observatory" (partly a reference to "Mr Palomar") and Cosmicomics. One reason for my appropriation of Calvino's titles was to acknowledge my debt to his writings and especially to Cosmicomics.

It is difficult to say why these stories helped my work at this time. Calvino, like Kafka, seems a very non-visual writer. Even when the optical is the subject of Calvino's fiction, as in "Mr Palomar", it seems to be addressed to the impossibility of seeing. Nonetheless, I found many of his stories seem to induce powerful images even though these images were often settings for a kind of universal blindness.

A few months ago I came across a new edition of Cosmicomics and discovered several stories that had not been included in the first English translation. One of these was "The Night Driver". As soon as I had finished reading it for the first time, I had exactly the same sensation of the presence of a powerful but indefinable image that I remembered on my first encounter with these stories.

Recently, whilst working with the pages of jewellery catalogues, I was trying out vertical and diagonal cuts in collages that were designed to cut out the central object of attention and retain its spotlight. When I used a vertical cut, the collage reminded me of Newman, but when I used a diagonal one I thought of Fontana. I knew that the diagonal worked better, but I couldn't see why until I realized that I had before me the image of Calvino's "Night Driver" and of that cone of light to which he is reduced. JS



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