Stephen Carley


For me, drawing and painting is not about representation, it’s more a gathering and ordering of a collection of memories. Half seen, overlooked fragments, fleeting moments. It’s where marks, surfaces, shapes, lines and textures coalesce. Entirely process orientated and risky, it becomes a dialogue with the materials.

“A discourse between definition and the unresolved, the systematic and chaotic, certainty and speculation”. 
From The Good Drawing, CCW Bright 7.

Painting and drawing is, for me, about process. I don’t start with a clear idea of a ‘finished’ image. Drawing informs and underpins the ‘laying out’. There is no hierarchy in my studio practise between drawing and painting. Drawing and painting co-exist equally. Layered. Edges. Gesture and geometry collide. Intuition and serendipity drive the work forward.

“Like a researcher in his laboratory, I am the first spectator of the suggestions drawn from the materials. I unleash their expressive possibilities, even if I do not have a very clear idea of what I am going to do. As I go along with my work I formulate my thought, and from this struggle between what I want and the reality of the material - from this tension - is born an equilibrium”.
Antoni Tapies.

“People ask me, 'Don't you ever run out of ideas?' Well, in the first place, I don't use ideas. Every time I have an idea, it's too limiting and usually turns out to be a disappointment. But I haven't run out of curiosity”.
Robert Rauschenberg.

“Paint can be physical, sensual, visceral or a puff of smoke. It can capture every human emotion. Paint is a magical substance, alchemic.
Don’t be afraid to make mistakes and don’t ever try to be a smart ass*. The art world is full of them.
* Stock-brokers, politicians and sales men are smart ass, not artists”.
John Hoyland.

“When one is young and has experienced a good deal of rejection, you want to show everyone how tough you are. Later you want to show how clever you are. Later still, you want to see how far you can push yourself. And finally, you don’t give a f**k about anything, you just want to howl at the moon”.
John Hoyland.

The overlap between the visual elements of my practise and the audio work is pretty self evident;
the systematic, sequenced, layered nature of both visual and audio work.
The relationship to an audio ‘score’ is no accident either - the visual work is a gathering together of all manner of things seen, heard, felt, experienced…
My work is, in essence, linked to Psychogeographic concepts and ideas. In its essence this is about our relationship with place. A sense of place perhaps. This doesn’t have to be the place currently lived in either. Much of what I make is an amalgamation of both recent and much older memories. Sheffield and The Peak District is clearly a key driver in the underpinning context for the work but the flatness of Lincolnshire where I was born, grew up and lived almost without interruption ‘till I was 18 is very much evident. Cornwall and the West Country also filter through.

“It is impossible for me to make a painting which has no reference to the powerful environment in which I live”.
Peter Lanyon.

“With cities, it is as with dreams: everything imaginable can be dreamed, but even the most unexpected dream is a rebus that conceals a desire or, it’s reverse, a fear. Cities, like dreams, are made of desires and fears, even if the thread of their discourse is secret, their rules are absurd, their perspectives deceitful, and everything conceals something else.”

Italo Calvino, Invisible Cities.