dimanche 8 avril 2012
Maurizio Anzeri makes his portraits by sewing directly into found vintage photographs. His embroidered patterns garnish the figures like elaborate costumes, but also suggest a psychological aura, as if revealing the person’s thoughts or feelings. The antique appearance of the photographs is often at odds with the sharp lines and silky shimmer of the threads. The combined media gives the effect of a dimension where history and future converge. The image used in Round Midnight is an early 20th century ‘glamour shot’ that at the time would have been considered titillating for both the girl’s nudity and ethnicity. Anzeri’s delicately stitched veil recasts the figure with an uncomfortable modesty, overlaying a past generation’s cross-cultural anxieties with an allusion to our own.
“I’ve been collecting old photographs for a long time. A few years ago I was doing ink drawings with them and out of curiosity I stitched into one. I work a lot with threads and hand stitching, and the link to photography was a natural progression. I put tracing paper over the photo and draw on the face until it develops. Sometimes the image comes straight away, suggested by a detail on a dress or in the background, but with the majority of them I spend a lot of time drawing. Once the drawing is done, I pierce the photo with a set of needle-like tools I invented and take the paper away; the holes are obsessively paced at the same distance to convey an idea of geometry. When I begin the stitching something else happens, drawing will never do what thread will – the light changes, and at some points you can lose the face, and at others you can still see under it.”
“There’s a dynamic in what happens between the photograph, the embroidery on top, and you standing in front looking at it. I try never to completely cover a face, you can always still see the face underneath. There are no rules other than I always leave one or both eyes open. Nothing is bigger in my head than a face, it’s the best landscape we can look at. It’s all to do with the centre, the body. Like a costume or other identity, my work reveals something that is behind the face that suddenly becomes in front. It’s like a mask – not a mask you put on, but something that grows out of you. It’s what the photo is telling you and what you want to read in the photos. I get my ideas from many different sources: it could be theatre, or someone dressed up on the tube, a tribe in Papua New Guinea, or Versace. It’s never one specific thing.”
“Photographs from the 40s and 50s have a totally different quality from photos we’re used to today. We don’t recognise them as photographs now, they really look like watercolours or drawings. The images I use are anonymous, I find them everywhere; I’m really into flea markets and car boot sales, when you enter you have no idea what you’re going to encounter. In everything I see there is something I am interested in, but I try to look at them as plain canvas. Art history is very important to me, it’s all been done before but it’s never been done by you: if you don’t look into the past there is no chance to go into the future. The surrealist movement is important to my work, but I don’t become obsessed by it, it’s not dictating rules. I understand history in a formal respect, and think of past artists like travelling companions – making work is like going for a walk with them. At the end of the day it’s about humanity.”