Gary Stephens: Pleated
From June 1 to June 24, 2017, Everard Read Gallery will present Pleated by South African artist Gary Stephens.
Monumental in scale, the artist’s portraits pay homage to the African traditions of hair braiding, hats, headscarves and contemporary urban style. By capturing an ornate braid pattern or the particular angle of a hat viewed from behind, the artist focuses on the iconic strengths of his models instead of their personal features.
Stephens portrays women in head scarves or men wearing caps to focus attention on the power of these everyday symbols of African life. He documents the sense of style and attention people put into how they present themselves in a contemporary African setting.
From a visual perspective, Stephens is constantly drawn to patterns, visual rhythms, and geometric repetitions such as textile patterns and botanical shapes. His meticulous technique of drawing in vertical stripes, pleating the paper, and using string screens gives the images a subtle visual vibration and vitality. The portraits seem to shift or dance when viewed from various angles as if capturing a slight movement or breeze instead of being solid or static.
Stephens transforms the everyday people of his African life into sublimely beautiful beings that radiate an almost mythological sense of Italian classical light. He strives to reflect back the sense of joy he experiences living among a new culture and finding beauty in the people he meets.
Gary Stephens was born in the United States, and studied painting and drawing at the University of Arizona and the San Francisco Art Institute. He combines his interests in optical effects, stripes, fractured images, with his love of pattern and mark-making and uses the portrait as well as cityscape to explore his visual interests and engage with the beauty of the African continent. Stephens has featured his works at several exhibitions including at Yuma Art Center Museum, Arizona, USA (2008); Braids and Caps, Gallery Momo, Johannesburg (2011); The Ankara Portraits, Omenka Gallery, Lagos, Nigeria (2012); Networks and Voids, Modern Nigerian Hairstyles with Okhai Ojeikere, Omenka Gallery, Lagos, Nigeria (2013); Sydney Contemporary13, art booth, with Everard Read Gallery, Sydney, Australia (2013); and London 14, International Art Fair, Booth H4, Artco Gallery, Aachen Germany (2014).
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