Stephen Gibb is a contemporary artist with a strong inclination towards the surreal and an apparent tendency towards clocks and dodo birds.
He is not only an original painter but also an interesting individual so you are likely to enjoy the following dialogue as well as Stephen’s artworks.
The Original Dialogue
Sabina Nore talking to Stephen Gibb
Basics and the Banal
Condescension. Anyone talking down to me makes me furious. I may not be as smart, as pretty or as rich as the next guy but guess what – humans have evolved to a point where they should respect one another. If class, race and faith differences were meaningless because of mutual respect think of where that would put us.
People. That is certain people. The ones who coast through life without reflection. The ones who follow the sheep in front of them because their inner vision has been narrowed to the point where only the tail wagging in front of them is visible. The ones who emulate, aspire and idolize the false gods presented to them by TV and other mass media, as if to do so magically includes them in the charade of modern mythology. These people inspire me to live my life unlike them.
Really – anything and everything at any time can inspire. A conversation, a miss-heard word, a photo, a story, failure…I process whatever comes my way and when something resonates enough, it prompts a response or a commentary in some artistic form. I find my interest in human nature, how we think, perceive and why we behave the way we do is always informing my work.
This kind of stumps me. Formality strikes me as a kind of rule imposed by authority and I chronically resist authority. I also think of formal dress which you will not catch me wearing. I don’t even own a suit. If by formality you mean some kind of social ritual – I’m still stumped. I do try to behave and use good table manners…
My favourite formality is putting on my surrealist glasses, preferably sunglasses so as not to appear too bookish (Man Ray frames, Flank Lloyd Wright castoffs). I LOVE the absurdities of the world and through the lens of surrealism the strangeness of everyday life gets amplified to a blinding clarity. They keep me paranoid, yet focussed and they blur out the annoying inanities like politics (or maybe that’s just selective attention). Humans have an innate way of avoiding things that disgust them, it’s a universal law (picture a lawyer with surrealist glasses and white cane in hand), though I admit to occasionally ogling road kill, strictly for scientific purposes. That being said, I conclude politics = road kill.
Now that I have my surrealist specs on I can see that I have inadvertently inverted your questions of about what inspires me and what angers me…my apologies. My second favourite formality is correct spelling. Since I’m Canadian I spell favorite with a “U” – favourite. Now I have a headache from eye-strain.
Wearing my Christmas crown (for the benefit of my kids) when decorating the house at Christmastime.
Go to funerals alone.
100% yellow, 30% cyan. It’s sort of chartreuse green. Makes me happy.
I guess my wife. I feel like I’d owe it to her to see what she has to endure by being my mate. Not that I’m a bad mate but if I could really understand her perspective, think of how that would connect us. Then again, maybe I wouldn’t want to know…
The First Steps
When I was about 7. The kids in my class saw my drawings and paintings and asked me if I was going to be an artist when I grew up. I said I already was.
Yes. My parents are both fair at drawing and very good with making things. I think they may have wondered about my choice of going to art school but they didn’t fuss too much.
I think I knew about Norman Rockwell as a very little kid and he sort of represented a “real” artist to me. I think I leaned about narrative story telling through art from him. Then I discovered Bosch and Dali and I thought ‘Hey, I’m not so different after all’. I think the influence of Dali was one of freedom, a way to liberate the subject matter from itself or enfold it onto itself on a deeper level. A landscape didn’t have to be just a landscape or still life just a bowl of fruit. I still maintain a sort of narrative hold on the concepts though, not giving over 100% to the so-called “subconscious”.
“She’s just jealous” which was on the heels of the worst advice regarding art that I ever got.
Oil paint on MDF (medium density fibreboard). I like the surface of MDF as opposed to canvas. I can cut it into shapes or just leave it rectilinear. I also really love the visual presence of what oil can accomplish. In certain light it is magic (if I’ve been successful). You just can’t accomplish the same effect with acrylic. There’s something almost luminescent and sculptural about it.
Sculpture is too much work.
It changes all the time. If you were to ask me for an “artist statement” and then ask me again in a month’s time it wouldn’t be the same. I’m constantly responding to myself and reacting to external influences. It makes me insane to see someone with obvious talent locking into a shtick and repeating the formula over and over. I do ride a series of similar-styled paintings for a while but I ultimately succumb to inspirations that lead in other directions.
That being said, there is a consistent Steve-Gibb style that emerges. Just a look back at the last ten years’ worth of paintings will confirm that.
Not yet. Wonder what that would be like?
You and Others
If I were 15 it would have been Jimi Hendrix but that seems silly to me now. I’m not really one for hero worship.
I have no inclination to teach. I showed up at an art class recently with the intention of “helping” the instructor and ended up just drawing pictures for all the kids.
Now if someone approached me and asked if I would walk them through my method and they were serious about learning, I wouldn’t hesitate, but I’m no teacher.
Anyone who would have me. My criteria are of acceptance not starry-eyed adulation. If someone asked me to be in a show, that is the honour in itself. If you’re fishing for who it is that I most admire in the contemporary art world then I’d say Maurizio Cattelan, Jenny Saville and maybe Glenn Brown. I’d never want to exhibit with them though because they’d squash me. I guess I’d be most comfortable in the sort of Pop Surrealism/Lowbrow crowd. People like Mark Ryden, Todd Schorr and maybe Ron English. Still squashed though.
Don’t expect it to all work out but if you HAVE to be an artist then DO IT and KEEP doing it!
One sugar and a drop of milk, every 2 hours…
. I don’t bite (much) and my prices haven’t reached the unattainable level yet.
Behind the Curtain
I like to point out that there is always something behind the curtain. While this interview with Stephen Gibb already provides you with a glimpse into the artist’s mind, he has also agreed to share a few of his sketches and doodles! These have never been published anywhere before, so it is my special privilege to share this treasure with you today.
Click on any of the pages above to see the enlarged view.