Stephen Chambers RA is a painter who makes prints. This exhibition will focus primarily on the prints but will include some paintings to show how the two disciplines relate in terms of subject matter, structure and colour and where they might differ in terms of methods of approach and manufacture.
As a student at St Martin’s in the early 1980s Chambers was already a fêted abstract painter but quickly confused his admirers by the inclusion of figuration. Over the past thirty years he has developed his unique way of seeing (the visible and the less visible atmosphere or moment behind the visible) and refined his methods of expressing that vision in paint, although deliberately not to the point of slickness. His latest paintings are richer than ever with an increasingly complex arrangement of familiar objects such as chairs, ladders, pendant lights, swing mirrors, flowers and hundreds of striped mugs, all precisely placed on a background of opulent red, orange or green. The usual pensive or anxious, solitary figure has even disappeared in some, which removes some of the emotional tension of earlier works but the strange, almost abstract arrangement of the objects in space retains the air of mystery and makes for works of astounding beauty.
The complexity of Chamber’s paintings could not be achieved without drawing: first to work out the ideas in his head, later to refine them and then to transfer them to canvas. Drawing is also crucial to the making of the prints. Indeed his recent series of etchings, My Shitty Sisters, although obviously intended as a final publishable product, is very close in feel to the idea drawings and preparatory working drawings he makes for the paintings in his studio. There he is completely in charge of all the processes from start to finish, but coming relatively late to printmaking (his earliest etchings date from 1993), he is happy to work with and rely on expert collaboratorators to help him achieve the results he wants in the different print media.
The imagery and atmosphere in the etchings, monotypes and screenprints are familiar from the paintings: there are chairs, ladders and lamps, trees, animals and mysterious figures but these are by no means simply replications of the paintings. There is a graphic quality and more action and movement in the prints, suggesting a relatively relaxed and immediate approach to working, without sole responsibility for the technicalities. The rich backgrounds can be achieved with chîne collé in the etchings; and the silkscreens have various filigree patterns derived from Japanese screens over the whole image. These patterns are deliberately slightly disconcerting for the viewer initially, but they serve in the end to unify the image and add to its decorative qualities.
This is an artist operating at the height of his powers.
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These images are a selection of the works available at the Gallery Please contact the gallery for further information