About Stephen Abela
I spent around 6 years in formal education in University and College in Ontario, Canada studying Painting, Drawing, Printmaking and Design. In 2004 I moved to London where I currently live and work. Painting the high life and other scenes of more accessible pleasure: My recent work is almost summed up by a quote from the photographer, Slim Aaron: "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 VoluptÃ©' 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 clichÃ©d beauty. Although I can succumb to it at times, I do not like the idea of slavishly copying photographs, as this process can become a formulaic and banal practice. Generally, I attempt to not just simply reflect on a pre-manufactured scene. I enhance and manipulate the colour, using an impressionistic colour palette in many of the paintings, by incorporating complementary colours; ocean, pool, tree and plant hues used as a back drop to skin tones and bright contrasting parasols. I alter the texture and composition of the original image, to describe the general sense of the scene as I imagine it. I bring out aspects in the image that convey, to me, a feeling that more closely relates to what I think of as a purer, more direct pleasure; There is always an element of chance and intuition in my work. Ultimately, I do not follow a particular prescribed working process too closely and generally try to avoid preconceptions about what I am doing.