Broken Face Soliloquies | Stephen Allwright

Thu, February 20, 2020 to Fri, March 20, 2020
  • Stephen Allwright
    Faux rapture, 2020, Graphite and watercolour on Fabriano paper, 79 x 60 cm
  • Stephen Allwright
    Lamp and smoking figure, 2020, Ink, graphite and watercolour on Canson paper, 135 x 109 cm
  • Stephen Allwright
    Bedroom, 2020, Graphite, ink and watercolour on Canson paper, 91 x 65 cm
  • Stephen Allwright
    Deck chair with kissing fish, 2020, Ink and watercolour on Canson paper, 130 x 118 cm
  • Stephen Allwright
    Dark portrait, 2020, Ink, graphite and watercolour on Canson paper, 132 x 122 cm
  • Stephen Allwright
    Fishbowl interior, 2020, Ink, graphite and watercolour on Canson paper, 135 x 124 cm
  • Stephen Allwright
    Receiver with suspenders, 2020, Ink, graphite and watercolour on Canson paper, 137 x 107 cm
  • Stephen Allwright
    To do with hands, 2020, Ink and watercolour on Fabriano paper, 79 x 59 cm
  • Stephen Allwright
    Broken face soliloquy, 2020, Graphite and watercolour on Canson paper, 134x 105 cm
Stephen Allwright
Stephen Allwright
Stephen Allwright
Stephen Allwright
Stephen Allwright
Stephen Allwright
Stephen Allwright
Stephen Allwright
Stephen Allwright

SMITH is excited to present Stephen Allwright’s 3rd solo exhibition with the gallery titled Broken Face Soliloquies, following 2018’s Fluid and 2017’s Inclusions. The presentation continues in Allwright’s signature style of bold lines and pattern making. In this notably distilled presentation, with a focus on larger format works, each work contains a single figure engaged in a heightened domestic scene. Allwright’s quotidian observations are loaded with personal symbolism which creates a new visual language through which he communicates.

Allwright is primarily a self-portrait artist who unearths inner turbulence through his drawing practice. Allwright’s figures bend and twist, disregarding traditional gendered forms, thereby challenging notions of hyper-masculinity. They are vast in nature and undefinable. Embedded in the space between each line is a thought, a feeling, a fear.

Allwright works from a small structure with a corrugated iron roof in Barrydale. Entering his studio is akin to entering the recesses of his mind. Versions of the Artist peer at you from the walls; each a preoccupation come to life. The starting point for Allwright is usually his face and body, however during the process of drawing underlying intimacies are unfurled. The end result renders something intimate, but separate from the self.

“When I emerge from my studio after being surrounded by the portraits I see my reflection in a large window of the adjoining house and I barely recognise it as myself. It is as if I am simultaneously both the reflection in the glass and the pictures, but also neither of them", Allwright explains.

Allwright’s work exists somewhere between the self-congratulatory and self-deprecating. He wrestles with self-portraiture being an indulgent practice, while feeling the self is the most authentic starting point to express the shared human experience. Abnormally large and small hands render many of Allwright’s figures clumsy and useless. There is an outward manifestation of the psyche and a rebellion against societal expectations.

“These seemingly deformed limbs and bent bodies are necessary for that picture to exist. If the hands were not large, that picture wouldn't exist. The idea is that the picture itself leads the process and that the outcome is dependent on the demands of the drawing”, he explains.

This idea that drawing exists before the Artist is what makes Allwright’s works inverted self-portraits. He is a reflection of each of his creations. Of this he says, “I like the idea of sand paintings disappearing in the wind. I imagined that in this case when the picture is finished the Artist disappears in the wind.”

At the core of Allwright’s practice is the drawn line. He gravitates towards ink, graphite and watercolours because of the immediacy of these mediums. He often starts with a definitive line, but will deviate from the initial idea in favour of allowing his mind to wonder. He embeds this indecision and process of making the work into the lines and patterned areas. Over days it becomes more clear what will emerge from the fragments.

“I suppose the almost binary starkness of a dark line on paper may come across as a potentially violent act, but I see it as a joyful act. A decision. It is in a sense an affirmation or distillation of a what was previously a mere notion. The repetitive patterns additionally offer an archive of thoughts I have while making them”, he says.

Broken face soliloquies grapples with that which has changed and which has stayed constant. The natural aging process changes our bodies and how we physically move through the world. Joints ache and eyes become weary. Over the same time we collect memories and phobias along the way which too change how we navigate mental and physical space. What stays constant? Broken face soliloquies questions where the self exists in between the physical and mental baggage, and engages the part of the Artist that has stayed constant throughout metaphysical spaces.

In the process of making these works, Allwright probed the dimensions and parameters of this “constant”. Allwright imagines that the part of him that stays constant exists outside of himself and acts as a sort of emissary at best, and alter-ego at worst.

“I imagined that in this body of work I was trying to assassinate myself but in reality it was merely the case of grappling with how to speak, albeit visually, about how my thoughts and preoccupations were washing over me,” says Allwright.

Broken face soliloquies ultimately uncovers an openness that exists outside of the corporeal self, and questions our relationships with the essence of existence and memory. While the works start as self-portraits, through the process of making it diverges into a multiplicity of thought.

Broken Face Soliloquies will show from 20 February until 20 March 2020. For press enquiries and to request further material, please contact Jana Terblanche at jana@smithstudio.co.za.

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