Oil on Canvas
30" x 20"
In this painting, the artist is the bystander. Standing on the boulevard of a street on a sunny afternoon, I have presented myself in my work garb, painting in a “plein air” scenario, both canvas and easel unseen. Apart from serving as an intimate self portrait set outdoors on a summer day, Bystander integrates three key elements, pictorially and symbolically, to present something more: the artist, the fire hydrant, and the burning car. As a psychological portrait, it suggests ideas about the role of the artist, and the tension between societal and personal reflection.
Artist Statement / Bio
I paint open-ended narratives that feature ordinary people engaged in ordinary activities. Achieving an effect that is out of the ordinary is where the work begins: the transformation, the editing, the re-imagining. That’s the point at which art overtakes illustration and the specific gives way to the universal. Equal parts ‘eyewitness account’ and ‘symbol-laden parable’ contribute to the tendency of my paintings to invite interpretation yet still retain a comfortable and coherent plausibility. It is a fine balance.
If I were a filmmaker, I’d probably cast the movie before the script was written. Long before I know how the story will unfold, the spark of an idea presents itself in the form of a face, an expression, or a gesture. The gesture, almost always candidly captured, is prominent in most of my work. Since body language is held in a tenuous relationship with any kind of objective truth, context is indeed everything. I use this to my advantage to highlight tension through visual irony—all in the service of provoking thought.
In 2016, I received the Laura Ciruls Painting Award—an accolade given annually by the Ontario Arts Foundation, and one that has meant the most to me, so far. I am very fortunate to have the representation of two well-regarded galleries: Ingram Gallery in Toronto’s Yorkville district, and Earls Court Gallery in Hamilton. My home and studio are located in Orangeville, Ontario where I live with my wife, Wendy.
— Steven Volpe