Maurizio Anzeri

The United Kingdom, London The Photographers' Gallery

Maurizio Anzeri (b.1969, Italy) is an Italian-born, British-based artist who searches out vintage portraits and landscapes in flea markets and junk shops, viewing them, he says, as landscapes on which to map out his own unique geography of suggestion. Faces are criss-crossed with coloured skeins, or patterned in curves and circles until they are barely visible. Sometimes the end result resembles an elaborate mask; at other times an interior landscape made by a latterday surrealist plundering his fertile unconscious. Here, the poignancy that attends all discarded photographs – remnants of another time, another life of which we know nothing – is literally covered over.

Anzeri has said that his embroidered images suggest "other possible evolutionary dimensions for the people pictured", but his work has a Surrealist rather than a Darwinian undertow. Sombre-looking children and sophisticated adults take on an absurdist aspect. The people pictured all but disappear in the process, becoming shadows or outlines beneath the lines. What was once a portrait is something else entirely: a formal, sculptural, diagrammatic artwork in which identity and expression is camouflaged. Anzeri creates something new and surprising by applying an old-fashioned craft to old-fashioned artefacts.