External/Internal/Stone (view 1) | 17″ x 31″ x 18″ | Oil on panels | 2019
James Stephens is known for his paintings of invented landscapes and interiors and also mixed media sculptures. He develops his imagery through a process of improvisation and accretion. Beginning from imagination, memories or everyday observation, each element of the dense compositions are a result of conscious and subconscious decisions made during the painting process. The ideas for how the final painting will look arrive and depart over many configurations. In this way he allows for the piece to come to life fluidly, similar to Surrealist automatism. The resulting images are then a reflection of the way our thoughts are randomly changing, with one idea inevitably triggering another, and a single image including elements of past, present and future. Over time some themes have emerged, most of them reflating to his interaction with the urban environment. There are blighted industrial landscapes, still life objects found on the streets or in his basement, unkempt interiors and geological phenomenon. This imagery acts as a record or evidence of his experience in the world. While the individual images, colors and techniques suggest a solvable puzzle, the finished paintings, instead present a vague personal and psychological visual story.