Interview with Stephen Bush
AWFC: In many of your paintings, your placement of man made objects and dwellings into pristine landscapes creates tension and dissonance. What storylines do you want your viewers to find in these scenes?
Stephen Bush: The landscape in these paintings read as a pointed metaphor that speaks to our increasingly frayed relationship to the environment. The depicted views continue to seduce and disturb. Inhabited by costumed participants and icons of visual culture, My figures confuse easy readings of time, place, and meaning. Their considered presence also draws attention to my ongoing explorations of pictorial style. In my paintings, contradictions abound. Modernist design commingles with démodé narrators, and dilapidated structures overhaul their futile utility. Regeneration and transformation share duality with the images depicted and the physical material itself in its fluid, dripped, pooled, brushed and scraped state. For me, the act of painting is one of ponder, revision and improvisation.
AWFC: Which of the structures depicted in your paintings featured here would you choose as your home? One of the wooden shacks, the contemporary concrete structure, the hollowed log or the metal trailer?
Stephen Bush: That’s easy but at the same time complex and corrupted. I love cast concrete — its solidity, tone and density, floor, walls and especially ceiling in a house. Unfortunately concrete is massively energy heavy to produce, which is slightly outweighed by its longevity. This energy consumption is drastically reduced if fly ash is used but its more a design / aesthetic question as my ideal concrete house is also massively labour intensive and as a result very costly. Pure grey and minimal, some say stark. But these brutal spaces are expensive to produce. Thus its more a desire than any viable reality.
AWFC: For several works in the exhibition, you use the names of actual places as your title. What is the connection between those places and the scenes you depict?
Stephen Bush: Titles are such a paradox; they intrigue, provoke and at times describe what’s being presented. The title does not clarify the content of the work, it is the name of the work. My titles are drawn from various sources ranging from my own personal interest in music, to fragments of contemporary culture, to historical connections of place and significance. Many recent titles are derived from small private properties with overlaying histories. So in this sense they are connected to a physical place that I have journeyed. However, their names / titles are historically multi referential. They make reference to cultures and eras; as an example, not only is Wallingford a place I drive past, it is also a French wallpaper, a town in Connecticut, town in the UK, etc., etc. This ability to have connection and multi meaning, this ambiguity is what is of interest for me. Some titles are musical reference points that have long captured my attention with their resonance and inexplicable nature.