This painting does have a story behind it. *Mr. and Mrs. L. W. Stephens travelled extensively across the continent of Europe on motorcycle, 1949 – 1956. They nicknamed this motorcycle ‘The Wreck’ until they upgraded to a Bantam in 1956. Mr. and Mrs. L. W. Stephens documented their expeditions photographically in black and white. They developed their photographs at a chemist on Morning Lane, Hackney, London, archiving their collection in a brown leather bound photography album as they went. Mr. and Mrs. L. W. Stephens captioned a selection of their photographs written in blue fountain pen on white labels, however, most were left unnamed. Jan Bondad purchased Mr. and Mrs. L. W. Stephens’ photography album for reasons unknown in 2006. Two years later Jan Bondad gave the album of photographs to his then housemate, Luke Waller. Luke Waller, accepted the album with great appreciation. An instant affiliation with the lives of Mr. and Mrs. L. W. Stephens followed.
The artist got approached by Cutler and Gross and was asked to produce a surreal series of paintings to celebrate the launch of their Spring / Summer 2013 collection. He took this opportunity to explore the imagery of Mr. and Mrs. L. W. Stephens further. He did this by selecting a handful of photographs as a starting point for a series of paintings that pay homage to the couple. He mixed fact and fantasy by adorning Mr. and Mrs. L. W. Stephens in a selection of Cutler and Gross’ S/S ‘13 collection. The current whereabouts of Mr. and Mrs. L. W. Stephens is unknown.*
The mood of this piece is very nostalgic, intimate and romantic. The lines used are strong, bold and actual. The materials used were acrylic on paper, this causes the colour to be vibrant and vivid, and also allows the artist to make the painting as realistic as they like. There is no wet-on-wet used in this painting as the tone is chiaroscuro, meaning that some of the details had to be simplified.
The painting itself isn’t very old (it was painted in 2012) however it is from a photograph from 1954 as the title suggests. This piece is quite small since it’s on paper, causing the composition to be tight. However, the use of colour makes it seem serene, so alought the composition may be tight, it’s not chaotic. The sky in the background is pink suggesting either a sunset, a surrealist style of painting or could be symbolic of love, the yellow flowers also being symbolic for joy. One of the couple is in a field of yellow flowers with dark trees in the background. The use of block, saturated colours in this piece makes it stylised, and seem like an old photo. The colours used are opaque, limited and vibrant. The light in this piece plays a huge part as it gives the piece it’s hazy, nostalgic feel. The light is ethereal, natural and soft, making all of the forms seem more gentle and the atmosphere more hazy.
* I emailed the artist about this piece, and this is the reply that I got from him. I have just copied and pasted what he said in the email as I didn’t want to miss out any details or accidentally change the story. I know that this information has been used in the press release about this painting, but the artist did give me permission to use it in this project.