Stephen Farley

< back to Artists

I'm the last of six children so by the time of my arrival my Dad had become quite accomplished in making toys for us from found materials. He had always worked with his hands so I had an early inspiration and a legacy of innovation to live up to.

 Click to Read an In-depth Article

Further education in art had always been a prospect I'd relished but the economic austerity of my adolescence played its part in me leaving Birmingham in search of creative employment. After some dextrous manipulation of sable brushes I worked my way through the Letraset book to become a fledgling signwriter. My working practices grew ever more progressive over time, but the events of one day in particular caused me to reflect that it was no longer enough to write someone else's words.

Taking a Foundation at Bournville College of Art was a originally a whimsical decision, but it turned out to be my definitive step towards becoming an artist. I had no concept of what or how I would draw, all I knew is that I wanted it to be a unique testimony. It would have been unthinkable then to have three paintings in an exhibition at The Bankside before the conclusion of my studies. This was my first experience of a gallery so it was natural to assume they all served free wine.

Someone asking to buy your work is very humbling but if it keeps happening then it's probably good business practice to work out a price before they ask.

Ideas and inspirations

My first recollection of art was contained in the weekly comics of my early childhood -learning to read via the concept of the speech balloon was an educational revelation. The association of pictures and language still pervades my thoughts as it may be the literal interpretation of two unlikely words combined that proves to be the inception of an artwork. When there may be no direct translation for phrases in other languages I may offer a pictorial substitution which then becomes a unilateral interpretation courtesy of a visual artform.

There are a multitude of both abstract and figurative subjects covered in my practise to date but what links them all is personal testimony of an event worthy of artistic commemoration. Sometimes the physical evidence of what's being portrayed is intensively obscured by my processes so the title of each piece is particularly important in what I'm relating to the viewer.

I'm also intrigued by the close relationship between visual art and popular music. I believe we uphold the sounds of our transition from adolescence to adulthood so for me Depeche Mode's influence occasionally forges a vision I wish to keep.

I try to see as many contemporary exhibitions as I can, probably to make up for the lost time prior to my studies. Some of the most influential artists I've discovered have been in the high concentration of galleries in Manhattan's Chelsea district.

From palette to picture

If I'm working on a painting I will choose my base substrate carefully as the dimensions and mass of media need to be configured beforehand. Once I'm ready to begin I may just have a raw concept in my mind which I'll then work through instinctively. As I spend a considerable time with each title it's not unusual to come up with ideas for the following piece through experimentation and material combination. I have been known to work outside to expose the medium to the elements before it's dried if I'm chasing a specific aesthetic. By the time I've achieved a surface that is seductive I'll be slightly saddened to be administering the finishing strokes of the relationship. Once dry I'm left with a tactile relief to remind my sense of touch of that encapsulated moment in time.

My sculpture requires a different approach entirely because of the expanse of processes that require a precise order. A traditional sculptor may engage timeless tools of hammer and chisel to achieve form from stone, but my preoccupation with organics leads me to shape viscous liquids. Surrounding myself with an ephemera of unconventional implements requires me to work in complete seclusion so I'm not self-consciously avoiding looking like I'm taking a spatula to an emerging life form. Invariably my figurative forms feature a molten metallic element so once again I'll take it outdoors and fire up a small crucible.