Brian Keith Stephens current exhibition, Party Animals, is a captivating culmination of several magnificent vignettes. Animals tease glimpses of their lives, revealing their very essence, as the viewer voyeuristically shares a moment in time. Stephens weaves ever animal into the background, inviting the observer into the enchanted creatures habitat – whether they be air, land, or sea dweller. Like a Polaroid snapped at a fantastic party, individual strong personalities emerge, where potential energy becomes kinetic energy within the mind. Colors illicit a romantic fantasy pastiche, a virtual fairytale land where each exquisite image reveals playfulness, hope and survival. Using multilayered, expressive brush work, Brian’s vision manifests to convey a simple message, « you are what you are ». Animals are instinctual, but by no means predictable and that is what is intriguing about the body of work, it stimulates imagination. Positive energy exudes from these images, curiosity contagiously abounds as the viewer contemplates what each individual beast is thinking, they have invited you in so enjoy a world far removed from human foibles.
What makes an animal, an animal, as one gazes upon the menagerie that is the show, Party Animals, it is hard to not see humanity in every portrait. Each snapshot suggests an intelligence on the part of the subject matter, to them we are the animals, perception is reality and reality is illusion to the enlightened. At this soirée no party goer is superior, in this jungle, each merely enjoys their majestic surroundings revealing a moment in time. Background and foreground often contain bright colors that are ephemeral, magic, these delicate paint passages bathe flesh, feather, or fur – alluding to the glimmers off of a spinning disco ball. Costumes and high couture are worn at this grand ball as well, each connoting the charm of true personality, as canvas position and brush stroke weight reveal shyness, strength, or contemplation. Ready? It is time to partake in the fabulous, as Brian Keith Stephens personally invites you to invision yourself at this after party of the year, observing and ingesting the energy released as partygoers bare their souls without any feelings of apprehension.
With this exhibition, the artist takes his audience to “a place where it’s always holiday.” So grab your sunglasses and join us on this midsummer sojourn!
Sunbathers and beach cruisers mingle with elephants, tigers, and zebras. Penguins are easily mistaken for pool floats and alligators are offered ice cream. Laundry wafts on the line while sharks and pigs alike shimmer in the summer sun. Welcome to Stephens’ exhilarating world. Of course lions enjoy pineapple.
He muses, “through these works I want you to experience my sunny summertime affair, the romance of time, where we can enjoy free spirited wonders, time to play and dream with no distractions from dull reality.” And he succeeds. The artist’s unrepentant glee is a welcome respite from the usual, gritty grind. His canvases effervesce with a contagious joy. Stephens taps into emotions that might be described as childlike if they weren’t so perceptively aware of what taking yourself too seriously ultimately sacrifices: happiness. A short vacation to Stephens’ world, a glimpse through his rose-tinted sunglasses, is an exuberant reminder to delight in our own.
Run with me baby
What is reality? Brian Keith Stephens’ playfully painted & palate knife scraped masterpieces, unconsciously entices the viewer to complete an experience for themselves. This subjective perception leads to an unavoidable internalization and is individually exclusive, utterly unique. Brian’s work engages the casual gazer, or pensive admirer to have a co-stake in each creation, prodding them to add mental brush strokes to finish a relatable fantasy. Does foreground infringe on background, or does the painting as a whole infringe on traditional notions of reality? These bold images connote escapism, beckon mutiny against the status quo, jarring loose tales of innocence through youthful exuberance. This exhibition conjures beautiful thoughts relived of simple times, before the transition to implacable societal roles had become concrete hard, fixed. Solace can be found in adolescence, when natures language was easy to speak and understand. Here in also lies the duality of how Stephens must balance out visually what must be revealed to convey his artistic vision. Comparable to a strong magnet, both capable of attracting, or repelling: pigments must also be structured to float on the surface, or be pushed to recede into subtle obscurity. Command over the oil medium successfully conveys a realistic, « not of this earth », modern fable narrative. Every canvas is rendered using principles of visual economy, where ambiguity yields surprising clarity, nourishing a receptive mind to embrace a tantalizing concoction of seemingly disjointed images. The effect is not unlike imbibing an alcoholic beverage to alleviate an overly burdened mind, tranquility invades, erasing adult tension, followed by bliss. Fears of youthful abandonment on the brink of imminent extinction cease, life’s mundane rituals of a staid existence encroaching on simple pleasures are eradicated. Ripe is the time to engage in laissez faire frivolity, sanctuary will once again be found when you – RUN WITH ME BABY.
I believe in Miracles
In his solo exhibition “I Believe in Miracles”, Brian Keith Stephens invites us to share his vision of the vast dominion of small but profound marvels that occur unceasingly all around us. These newest paintings seek to remind us of an age-old dialogue with the cosmos that many of us have forsaken—an intimate and timeless conversation between present and past, the close-at-hand and the unfathomably distant, the trivial and the essential. Just behind the illusory veil of mundane life, he suggests, there lurks a magical dimension coextensive with our own, one gravid with life-affirming wonders.
Almost half of the images in this series juxtapose wild animals with a playful, masquerading female figure who serves here as Stephens’ image of the eternal lover and the captivating other. Across nearly a dozen scenes, she adopts a wide range of personae alongside her untamed companions: sunbather, seductress, dancer, model, pinup, sibyl, sprite. Each pairing seems to hint at the near-infinite variety of marvelous beasts, ourselves included, that the living cosmos has cast up into the light from the depths of its irrepressibly creative spirit. Love in its myriad forms is the vital medium that binds these images together and animates them. Each of these canvases is a small act of pure passion, and as such each stands as an emissary of the life’s unexpected blissful miracles, great and small. We are all players in life’s never ending spectacle: we are animal, we are magical, and we are all moving forward together, linked inextricably to one another.
Brian Keith Stephens est aussi un vidéaste plasticien