WATCH & BEWARE
The "O" Paintings of Stephan
- by artist, photographer, collector, Noel Myles
Is there a visual equivalent to being out of breath? I imagine mopping my perspiring brow, feeling slightly dizzy at events that are beyond my control. You are not allowed to take it easy or let your mind wander. In these cramped spaces there are no visual escape routes. Even the stars turn you back.
There is a pressure in Stephan's paintings that I haven't seen elsewhere. This is caused by something other than the powerful subject matter. It is the PAINT that makes these scenarios come off the canvas and into my room where I watch. It is the drawing, the structure, the colour and the brush-work that makes these actors invade my personal space.
How is this achieved?
The middle distance is placed on the picture plane; often a strong, intense advancing red, with the background just behind it. The result is the foreground, with its luminous greens, tactile pinks and slippery blacks, stands in front of the picture plane. When a door opens it opens into your own room and not into the picture and these people are about to come in without knocking.
As a consequence there is a power here that far exceeds illustration. Although Stephan has taken STORY OF O as his inspiration the paintings have an autonomous life that is independent of the book. Something is about to happen and if you watch quietly and do not draw attention to yourself you will witness it. But you will not be a guest.
As for the sexuality in the pictures, these are not languid and easily compliant women, gazing patiently out from a pictorial chaise-longue, allowing you to take your time before entering. This is not the fleshy voyeurism of Rubens or Renoir. The psychological and painterly rigor found in Stephan's paintings is inseparably bound in an uneasy tension and it is this quality and his passion for the subject that puts him out on a limb with respect to art galleries and museums. These paintings are dangerously dodgy. In spite of all their in-yer-face, cutting-edge protestations, there are too many well-heeled galleristes out there to misunderstand. Tread here and you could be in a politically incorrect quicksand. But how readily we accept Toulouse-Lautrec's bar and brothel women: Picasso's pictures hinting that he will have sexual congress with more than one orifice of today's model before the sitting is over. These pictures made impotent by another form of bondage, reproduced and diluted in art historical surveys, soft compliant criticism and greetings cards.
So Stephan takes a stand in erotica fairs and festivals. He displays his drawings and paintings alongside stiletto heel cobblers, studded leather workers and latex clothiers. Here he finds props and faces for his tasks.
I wonder how mutual is the benefit. How many market-goers will recognize such astonishingly fine paintings, incongruously displayed on their home territory? NM.
Stephan can be contacted at
Story of O .info
( oil on canvas: all 140 x 110cm approx )
Stories of O: The Secret Door
Stories of O: les Amants du Roissy
Stories of O: la petit esclave
Stories of O: O Resplendent
"Gorgeous paintings..." Skin Two
"Bloody marvelous..!" Paul T.
fascinating, amusing and
shocking by turns... less about contemporary life or
fantasies as concerning the playtime of the gods and
goddesses of ancient myth, dressed (or undressed)
for today..." James Hamilton
Beware the Corridors of Roissy...
For almost 40 years Story of O has haunted my imaginings and persistently altered my course as an artist. First attempts to create images of my own inspired by the book during 1978, were faltering and inconclusive. Another attempt a few years later resulted in just two small paintings.
The Lovers of Roissy (1978)
The Arrival (c1985)
It was not until 1996 that I found my way to realizing a personal vision. The result, once I had found my feet, was a substantial series of large canvasses dominated by reoccurring motifs that altogether amounted to twelve "Stories of O" (all oil on canvas: 198 x 137cm)
Stories of O: the Second Whisper (detail)
With narrative links forming a 'story' without a story, Stories of O inspired a thirteenth canvas plus a whole series of individual paintings of various sizes including a diptych. These were succeeded by a series entitled Dolls.
At the Midnight Opera
Stories of O were never exhibited as a complete set but several were exhibited in London at the Coventry Gallery and several more found their way into private collections in the UK and on the continent. One painting found a place on the set of the feature film Preaching to the Perverted and was glimpsed not only near the end of the film but also on an early edition of EuroTrash. Several paintings were featured in Desire, Skin Two, the Erotic Review and Penthouse magazines.
Other novels have influenced my choice of subject matter including Story of the Eye and other stories by Georges Bataille. There is a sense of madness at the heart of Bataille's novels which presents a wonderful challenge when it comes to representing moments of passion or cruelty in paint on canvas.
"In that case, said I..." (oil 76 x 61cm)
But one has to guard against personal mannerism and cliche - to the extent of switching tracks or even stopping painting altogether. The most recent revival of not only this 'O' website but my paintings inspired by Story of O is the result of many things, not least of all the persistence of O in taking one along such seductive corridors of exemplary themes and motifs. Beware the corridors of Roissy...
Thorns (Story of the Rose)
( oil on canvas 137 x 107 cm )
Stephan can be contacted at Story of O .info
Finalist 2000 (UK)
Phoebe Llewelln Award
BA hons Degree
Central School of Art diploma
The David Murray Studentship
private collectors in the UK, France & Holland
Mixed Exhibition, Martin's Gallery, Cheltenham
Cheltenham Art Prize 04, University Gallery
Association of Erotic Artists Exhibition, Woburn Gallery, London
Club Wicked, cabaret exhibitions, London
Deep Space Art Show, London
SKIN TWO Expo, Barbican, London
EROTICA, Olympia, London
Coventry Gallery, London
Past One Man Exhibitions:
Alfred East Gallery, Kettering
Castle Museum, Nottingham
Work of Art Gallery, London
Mappin Gallery, Sheffield
"The Owl Mask" (oil 137 x 100cm)
"British artist Stephan has secured over the past few years a deserved reputation amongst a small number of collectors and devotees for a series of large oil paintings inspired by the French novel Story of O. Borrowing elements from the book Stephan has created a visual narrative richly colored and full of theatrical motifs such as burning candles, keys, masks, and draught blown curtains. In darkened rooms and cloistered gardens Stephan has caught his protagonists in freeze-frame and each frame has often as its focal point a semi-clad femme enfant with a sharp black 'bob' reminiscent of silent movie star Louise Brooks. Though intentionally erotic nothing is explicit and the viewer is invited to conjure his own interpretation of events, one or two of which are lifted directly from the novel.
Stephan first read the book in the 1970's shortly after it was published in Britain for the first time. By 1978 he was attempting to develop a small series of paintings inspired by the novel. Unable to achieve totally satisfying results Stephan put the 'O' project on a back burner pursuing other concerns and inspirations for eighteen years. Marks on a small canvas suggesting a face hinted at the possibility of a fully fledged 'O' series in the autumn of 1995. In his most recent work Stephan still explores the new found freedom of that initial tiny canvas and continues to seek out new ways of representing a certain eroticism not readily found elsewhere..."
STORIES OF O
the twelve paintings
(all oil on canvas 200 x 140cm)
Stories of O: the whisper the lamp
Stories of O: the owl mask the cage
the garden at night a dream of owls
the library at night night bound
Stories of O: cage 2 the arrival
the second whisper les belles captives
Poems On a Theme
> O <
Prices of paintings vary between £600 and £4000.00
Stephan can be contacted at Story of O .info
RETURN TO KEY O