As human beings, we are mysterious creatures: what makes us tick – our hopes, desires, our fears and secret pains – is what bonds us together. Whilst viewing the work of Stephen Newton, scenes of solitude and isolation cast the mind into contemplation of the human condition and eternity. However, Stephen Newton feels that his work is “an expression” and that it doesn’t stem from a set idea. “My paintings never refer to a specific place that could actually be located somewhere. They don’t have any narrative or symbolism or anything to do with dreams or memories, or other agendas of any sort.” His attitude towards his work is clear, as it is not just an extension of him, but something bigger.
Stephen has exhibited extensively throughout Europe, America and the UK. The latest acquisition of his work is Room with a View of Cliffs, now housed at the Madison Museum of Fine Art, America. He has also been described by the New York critic and philosopher Donald Kuspit as “one of the best painters painting in the world today.” In addition to being a national and international acclaimed artist, he is a highly commended author with a distinguished academic career.
Stephen lives between London and Grimsby, where his studio is based. He paints in Lincolnshire because of the light, buying paint by the litre, and opening the tins so the evaporative effect causes premature thickening, thus enabling his remarkably thick layers of texture. One is immediately struck by this assertion of surface and its materiality, which come from the artist’s exploration of the processes of painting and his subconscious.
Stephen’s paintings portray compelling elemental images – odd objects and parts of buildings, walls, staircases, chairs and windows – images that are raw and uncompromising, a reminder to the viewer of how buildings can encapsulate our hopes and fears on many levels. “Many have told me that they are somehow moved by my work or that the image becomes stuck in their head – but they don’t know why. There doesn’t appear to be any obvious reason for this, which can itself be paradoxical or disturbing.”
His paintings are a combination of figuration and abstraction, creating a subtle provocative tension between the bold formal qualities and the often intimate figurative content that emerge through their abstract layers. Stephen subverts the recognisable and allows the familiar to become strange through odd juxtapositions and details. Ultimately, however, his paintings leave the viewer to develop their own meanings from their layered images and illogical compositions.
Stephen has several exhibitions in the pipeline, and will be represented in January 2016 at the London Art Fair by Abbey Walk Gallery, at stand G38.
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1. Stephen Newton, Installation view, 2015. Courtesy of the artist and Abbey Walk Gallery.