A talk by Stephen Chambers at the Royal Academy
Stephen Chambers has many holes under his belt: painter, set designer, printmaker. His printmaking works are now showcased at the Royal Academy of Arts in London.
Part of the Artist Gallery exhibition series, The Big Country is an experimental and explorative journey which commissions members of the RA to create works that may otherwise have not come into existence.
Chambers used this opportunity to create an idea which he had been harvesting for some time: to make a large scale print. What has actually come to life in the Weston Rooms is a delicately and lovingly crafted series of prints combined to create one larger whole.
Formulated in a grid, the print does not make a conventional shape; instead, there are inserts and formations that surpass the norm and extend beyond what we expect to see, linked and uniformed but removed and abstract.
Immediately upon entering Weston Rooms, you are confronted with the central piece of the exhibition, an expansive set of 78 large prints combined together to create one whole. The piece, called The Big Country, represented a year of work for Chambers and the detail and intricacy housed within makes this clear to see.
Chambers explained his lack of pre-meditated planning when it came to realising the print; his drawings were only hung in a composition once finished. This strategy leaves the piece without a comprehensive story to be told. It is open to interpretation and can be broken apart and recombined on its travels to other spaces and shows. The piece’s drawings depict figures, landscapes, animals; they express a life in progression and the hope of movement to a better place. Meticulously crafted and hand-drawn before being rendered digitally, it is a fantastic example of the benefits of combining digital and analogue processes. The entire print has a patterned overlay inspired by Japanese pinpricked screens. The vast cultural references present within the work are achieved without the addition of colour.
Positioned opposite this work are the set of 18 small etchings that are overtly different in style. The second room contains prints from Chambers’ back catalogue of works and one new piece. All the works in the show create a conversational journey through Chambers’ process.
The set of 18 prints that sit in conversation with The Big Country print are small, decorative and vivid in colour. They present a huge contrast and thus nod to the scale and detail present in the new work and show the progressive journey perfectly.
Chambers goes on to discuss his journey through printing as a medium. He explains how he started printing with potatoes, a rough and harsh medium that ultimately spiralled into a fascination with printing techniques. He went on to create etchings and lithograph prints, some of which are on show in the exhibition.
The Artists Lab projects give artists the chance to experiment with things that commercial galleries would not allow, ultimately considered a painter, it would be unusual in another context for Chambers to be commissioned to make prints. The RA gives life to fantastic ideas and Chambers work is no exception. The Big Country is a fantastic exhibition for anyone with an interest in printing techniques.
For further information on Stephen Chambers’ work, click here.