London, United Kingdom
About Stephen Abela
Simply put my work can be summed up in a Slim Aarons quote: “attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places.’’ I like photographs of leisure scenes like those by Slim Aaron, vintage travel and holiday postcards from the 50s and 60s. I use these kinds of images as well as my own personal bank to make my paintings. I am drawn to the mix of nostalgia and ‘Luxe, calme et volupté’ in these depictions of leisure. Here is a place where people are partly naked, relaxed and often unaware of themselves and being natural. I don't slavishly copying photos as to me this is most often a banal meaningless practice. I am generally reflecting on a scene, enhancing and manipulating the image from the original source changing it to closer relate to what I think of as a purer more direct feeling about the subject. The beach scene and other social settings form a backdrop to my own meditation on what constitutes ‘leisure’ time and how within that time and space I can focus more easily and clearly on expressions of social and personal emotional dynamics. In this sense I feel I am more of a traditionalist as I attempt to relate back to painting history and pull away from the other media -film and photo- which ironically inform and are almost always the starting point of my work. On a formal level I am currently focussed on extending and strengthening my colour palette, for example in many of the scenes I will incorporate primary and complementary colour dynamics - cool versus warm– to create spacial tension the way Richard Diebenkorn was able to so successfully; a large ocean/pool blue or tree green punctuated by a small area of skin tone or a bright red or yellow umbrella or swimming suit. I find in much of my painting I cannot easily separate nostalgia for a bygone era, the sensual from more specific contemporary iconography of human interaction. I think this makes the subject-matter multi-layered and keeps me interested in making work. Hopefully it makes it more interesting to the viewer as well. work from 2014 My interest in historical subject matter informs my current work. I like to delve into particular events in history or historical subject that interests me and try to work within it, expanding or elaborating on an event in a way which is not represented in paintings historically. My previous beach scene work (2012-2014) can almost be summed up by a quote from the photographer, Slim Aarons: "attractive people doing attractive things in attractive places.'' I am drawn to photographs of leisure scenes, like those by Aaron, as well as vintage travel and holiday postcards from the 50s and 60s. I use these kinds of references, alongside my own personal bank of images, to make my paintings. I am attracted to the mix of nostalgia and "˜Luxe, Calme et Volupte' in these depictions of leisure. Here is a place where people are partly naked, relaxed and often unaware of themselves; perhaps more "˜natural' than in other situations. I spent my youth, and many summers following this, on the Mediterranean island of Malta. Some of the images I choose to paint relate back to those times and places; the beaches and pools that I now only vaguely recall. The process of working with an image that has personal appeal because it reminds me of some distant past, appeals to me as much as the beauty of the scene itself, as well as the edited visions from my own memories. I find it difficult to separate nostalgia from the purely aesthetic. In many ways this makes the subject matter I select problematic and challenging for me, as it is a personal iconography wrapped up in a cliched beauty.
BA Honours Fine Art Guelph University 1994
Independent Study Fine Art Concordia University 1990
Art Fundamentals Sheridan College Ontario 1984