Recognised for his exuberant screen prints around the Norwich area, home to the artist, Tazelaar Stevenson’s most recent show was held in the city centre at the Fairhurst Gallery. Contributing to his growing achievements of individual and group shows, his recent solo exhibit is titled Quin, a name which harnesses the underlying themes, thoughts and influences of Stevenson’s work.
Whilst the geometric lines and shapes characterising the artist’s screen prints may allude to a great focus on mathematical symmetry and scientific precision; a great focus for Tazelaar Stevenson is the natural world, his relationship and position situated among nature and an overriding sense of spirituality this can conjure. From an upbringing implementing ideas of the metaphysical to a lifelong bond with nature through activities such as bird watching, the artist has developed a genuine connection; which becomes evident when delving into his works.
Quin, the title of show refers to ‘Quincunx’; an arrangement of points, four at the corners of a quadrilateral and a fifth at its centre, unites Stevenson’s work; whilst outwardly screaming mathematical geometry, such design resides in nature, when considering it as the method of planting trees in order to increase prosperity. The symbolism of the numerical figure of five extends to human nature in a base, primitive sense; the body has five points- the head, two legs and two arms, as well as the five senses with which we navigate the world.
Further emblems of the work are the strong lines; rays featured in screen prints and drawings. The artist reveals that these structural shapes are born out of an influence from a singular image and motif, that being the imagery of a god like figure reaching down; rays expelling from his hands. Again, this lends itself to the underlying spiritualistic tones of the work, with the repetition of these geometric rays along with the quincunx, characterising the artist’s current practice.
Moreover, the relationship between exact precision in the screen prints and the loose and ambiguous qualities that are evocative of themes surrounding spirituality and nature is furthered as the artist begins to use screen printing ink outside of its traditional domain; painting with it onto pigment paper and canvas. Whilst pieces such as Trellis and Blue Stripes hold the same geometric qualities as the entire collection on show; the use of painting here gives weight to a more fluid, gestural approach; as the mark making techniques highlight the process of production and the less calculated approach bears upon the naturalness that becomes thematic throughout the work.
Process is an important feature of Stevenson’s practice, and the techniques the artist uses can again highlight the undeniable relationship his artwork holds with nature. Screen prints are produced using jet; collected and ground into screen printing ink by the artist himself and used to produce golden tones in his printed designs. Such rich colour further unites ideals surrounding spirituality with process and how natural materials can be used within the printing procedure.
The Fairhurst Gallery is known for its ability to adapt the space to fit each show; an ever changing environment serving to act as a welcoming extension of the artworks on show. The exhibition sees the space uplifted not only by the bold colours and shapes of the artist’s work but also in the neon pink wall painted especially for the show. It compliments and allows focus to be shifted onto Quin; a tissue paper collage cleverly layered and cut to produce exact precision and clean lines, also featuring the same bold pink tones that has captured and become associated with the show.
As well as using colour, the gallery also allows Stevenson’s work to come to life through the use of lighting. The galley space’s back wall features two canvas paintings; Trellis and Singing Birds and Dancing Bees, each of which are lit with spotlights which emit exact beams of light to frame the work. The decision to use bold, sharp projection compared to blurred lines and diffused light, adds a frame to the canvases and further mimics the strong, clean lines of the artist’s work. Thus the gallery successfully creates a brilliant continuity between the space and the work within; the galley environment becomes one with the exhibit on show.
Tazelaar Stevenson has showed in a variety of group and solo exhibitions within and around Norwich and the Fairhurst gallery have shown a growing number of local and international artists. However the unity between the artist in show and the gallery itself contributes to a beneficial new birth of themes and presentation for both parties. Through working with the Fairhurst, Stevenson has had the opportunity to have his screen prints, drawings and paintings fully realised and presented in high quality bespoke frames; courtesy of the team of skilled framers from the Fairhurst workshop; adding a sleek professionalism, whilst the gallery again achieves success in adding to the existing work to really highlight the selected pieces on show.
Moreover, whilst the Fairhurst has exhibited works and held shows of a similar nature with regard to the ideas and themes portrayed in Quin; the natural world and the metaphysical evident in landscape works, the recent exhibit brings a new light to such themes. Stevenson introduces a new style to the gallery’s archive of artists work. Whilst screen print artists and those who explore themes surrounding nature and spirituality have been associated with the gallery, Stevenson’s show gives such themes and processes a new updated and unexpected quality with his use of bright colours and calculated geometry; a new and contemporary style to enter the Fairhurst.
Thus there is built a beneficial relationship through the marriage of the artist’s work and gallery space in Quin; a show which has received glowing support and positive feedback; an overall success.
Emily Stewart, 2019