Stephen Abela

Stephen Abela

Toronto, ON, Canada

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.


BA Honours Fine Art Guelph University 1994
Independent Study Fine Art Concordia University 1990
Art Fundamentals Sheridan College Ontario 1984