By Gillian Elsom
Be prepared to be moved by Stephen’s paintings, there is vibrant colour, fierce and beautiful wild animals, repeating patterns, or motifs, on a black background, which come back in each painting to unify the whole collection. The motifs have been influenced by Stephen’s study of Global Art and in Stephen’s words are a mixture of ‘naïve form and calculated ideas’, using ‘elaborate design’ and ‘simple techniques’.
Stephen says ‘I paint naïve, colourful and semi-abstract paintings. Increasingly I’ve painted people as animals from wildlife, their surroundings and experiences….For me painting is bittersweet and free, like the ‘wildlife’ I paint, dangerous when cornered.’ From a wild cat, gorilla, elephant, tiger, peacock or snake, to a spider with a butterfly trapped in its web, these animals are dangerous when cornered but have their own wild beauty; it is left to our imagination as to whom they could represent, maybe characteristics in us all?
In his four paintings of the seasons ‘Spring’, ‘ Summer’, ‘Autumn’ and ‘Winter’: ‘Spring’ is a painting of bright, fresh colours, ‘Summer’ too has its own feel, while ‘Autumn’ moves towards warmer Autumnal hues and the cold of ‘Winter’ is painted with white motifs on a black background.
The colourful motifs have been used to create a unique and beautiful New Zealand wool ‘Contemporary Carpet’, hand woven in India. Although the sign said ‘do not touch’ the first thing the carpet makes you want to do is touch it, as you can feel the design from the raised pile. The motifs have also been painted onto his own papier mache̒ animals and recycled animal figurines.
There is something for everyone to appreciate in Stephen’s paintings: from a train hidden in the design, the suggestion of cypress trees in his ‘Travelling Through France’, to a huge snake (painted in black motifs on a gold background), becoming even more menacing as it slides onto the painting, so large it will only partly fit; they are fun and serious, in his words ‘harmonious but unsettling’.
Stephen is a parishioner of St Pius X Church, Merrow, Guildford. To find out more about his work see www.stephenhornsby-smith.com