County Down Artist Stephen Johnston Unveils New Work

An exhibition of new works by one of Northern Ireland’s most talented artists has opened in a leading Belfast gallery.

Gormleys Fine Art will host award-winning Stephen Johnston’s ‘Thrones’ at its Belfast gallery at 47 Lisburn Road until Saturday, April 30.

Johnston has gained a reputation as one of Northern Ireland’s most celebrated artists for his ability to place familiar objects in unfamiliar circumstances, challenging perceptions of reality.

His modern, surrealist style is true to his own creative voice, aiming to start a conversation amongst his audience and he is heralded for his ability to explore a topic in meticulous detail and apply it to the wider environment and collective consciousness.

The new works explore a different angle of this everyday, yet often complex, relationship.

It is a new, experimental body of work in formation for the last four years, focussing on chairs and their significance within a given context or environment.

“If you think about when you sit down on a chair, a chair is, in a way, a portrait of you. If you have a favourite chair, your indentations are yours,” said Johnston.

“So I want to take that idea and blow it wide open and explore that relationship that chairs have not only with you, the individual, and also as human beings, but what about other things like environments or different subject matters.

“The building block of the exhibition is the chairs, they are kind of what grounds the whole body of work.

“Often I find as an artist that I was tending to cage myself in with unnecessary rules about the visual language that I was using.

“I wanted a body of work that would allow me to break free and allow myself to explore and to create new bodies of work that you might think are very different, but that I’ve been longing to paint for a while.”

Johnston was born in County Down in 1987 and graduated from the University of Ulster with a first class honours in Fine and Applied Art.

His work explores the relationship between our humanity, changing culture and the link between them.

He places realistic figures and ordinary objects in unusual contexts, giving new meanings to familiar things while challenging observers’ perceptions of reality.

His quirky and thought-provoking work is closely related to surrealism and is inspired by Belgian artists René Magritte and Michaël Borremans, along with photo-realist artist, Denis Peterson.

Since graduating, Johnston’s work has been selected for display at the Saatchi Gallery in London, RHA Dublin and RUA Belfast.

He has won a number of awards, including the Diageo Emerging Artist Award in 2010, the Towry Award at the National Open Art Competition in 2012, the DeVeres Award at the RHA in 2012 and the KPMG Best Emerging Artist at the RUA in 2016.

He was also shortlisted for the Hennessy Portrait award in 2015 and 2016.

Johnston’s work can be found in many corporate and private collections throughout the world including Ireland, UK, France, US, Asia and Australia.

“My work has been particularly inspired by the classic and modern surrealists and from observation of everyday life and objects, such as films, nature, books and stories. I aim to engage the viewer with drama, intrigue and humour,” he said.

For more information go to gormleys.ie

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Tina Calder
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