Yeah, I’m a sucker for some assemblage. And hyper-realism. Belgian artist Eddy Stevens delivers on both. He claims to have been inspired by Belgian surrealism from youth, and his use of mashed-up, realist imagery, found material, and expressive brush work belie that inspiration. I’m not sure how he comes about his imagery—whether it’s referenced from old photos, or from in-studio models—but the combination of his costumed figures and animals with the surfaces on which he paints or draws evokes the magic of the past without falling into nostalgia or sentimentality. These figures are wilder and weirder and larger than any actual, historical person they may resemble. Stevens’ work, whether intentionally or not, is commentary on our tendency to enshrine the past through memory that is self-embellished and fragmented. The titles of the series’ represented below, The Contemporary History and Human Behavior, reinforce the feeling of an aggrandizement of times-gone-by. I haven’t decided whether Stevens’ images call up the notion that we tend to make the figures of the past more than they were, or that those people were more crazy and fantastic than is remembered. Perhaps both.
Stevens is a masterful draftsman—equally skilled with brush or pencil. His artistry is also quite evident in his use of found material. His drawings, in particular, are evidence of his ability to marry imagery with surface. A notable example of Stevens’ excellent incorporation of material is the drawing of the officer, in which the wrinkled texture of the officer’s jacket is mirrored—almost exactly—in the wrinkles of the paper. These are beautiful, rich, painterly pieces. While Stevens’ drawings tend to have a soft, almost feminine quality (and subject matter), his paintings are much harder; more masculine. The subjects are weathered men with hard stares, rendered in starkly contrasting values. Stevens’ ability to paint hair and fur and feathers convincingly is no small feat. To do so with the level of detail he depicts is exemplary. Yet he does not rely on his technical skill to gain a free-pass on conceptual creativity. He often allows areas of the canvas to remain blank, and adds arbitrary strokes and splashes of color to his well thought-out compositions.
Eddy Stevens is one of my new favorite artists. Take the time to head to his website to see more of his work. Enjoy!