The art of Chris Stevens (born 1956) – a painter based in London and Caunes-Minervois, France – revolves around figures on the fringes. His characters are mostly men – young and middle-aged, white and black, at once flawed and strong – trying hard to fit in some or the other subculture and assume a definite identity. Some are bald, some tattooed – standing against faint and distorted graffiti or advertisements. An element of rebellion runs through all the frames. It is as if these people want to attack the injustices of the established order or simply break out of its monotony and boredom.
British art scholar Paul Greenhalgh, in an essay from February 2016, writes that the paintings of Chris Stevens are “studies of people the artist knows, with their attitudes foibles, whims, reticence, and beliefs, placed in a wider world that neither they nor we can grasp or control: objective background, subjective foreground.”
“I know virtually everybody I paint, actually 99% of them,” says the artist. “Sometimes well, sometimes less well… There was a skinhead, a bloke, that I didn’t know, I just saw him walking along the street and I asked him if he would mind me painting him. He came along to the studio and I painted him. He never spoke the whole time.”
The underlying theme is both “the predilection within society to stereotype” and “the subsequent bigotry, which results”. This has been Chris’s main concern since the early eighties. The constants of stereotype and bigotry remain in the middle of every-shifting domestic, political and social issues that affect the artist on an everyday basis.
Although his content is contemporary, Chris Stevens is inspired by much older painters like Velasquez and Rembrandt. He studied at the University of Reading from 1974 to 1978. His works can be found in public collections including the Victoria & Albert Museum, The National Gallery of Wales, Unilever, Galerija Portreta, and many private collections in the UK, South Africa, USA and Europe.
Featured painting is “True Grit”.
Images used with permission.