This Post-Minimalist Painter Teaches You to Embrace Complexity

Bringing a depth of emotional qualities to the canvas, Stephen Whatcott has been charming online audiences with his post-minimalist abstract paintings. While Stephen’s work resonates with abstract expressionist works of the 1960s onwards, they also create an extra layer of physicality.

Stephen Whatcott Brianna

“Each painting differs from the previous one but I have found they often break down into more solid looking walls of paint which have a sense of overbearing, or brittle beams that look like they won’t hold too much longer. There’s always an element of structure to them, all of which have a certain drive and feeling instilled them.”
- Stephen Whatcott

Stephen Whatcott Heretic

Stephen’s paintings themselves provide a startlingly profound metaphor for emotional human life: the more one looks into what first appears to be black and white, structured and logical, the more one realises how complex, textured and detailed certain matters really are.

Stephen Whatcott Naoko

We, at THE PLUS, were perplexed by Stephen’s paintings, which is why we sat down with the artist to find out more.

THE PLUS: What frustrates you most as a painter?
Stephen Whatcott:
In terms of my work, I don’t get frustrated by much. It’s more the logistical side of things that can be difficult. I’m painting larger and larger works nowadays and so space can be a major issue. Storing finished paintings can be challenging, making sure they’re safe and not exposed to any damage means there are limited options sometimes but I get by.
 
Stephen Whatcott An Explosion of Thunder Resounded Round the Silent Street

TP: How much time do you spend per painting?
SW:
I paint in layers, most of which are fairly heavily applied, so due to drying times I often have to wait over twelve hours for each layer to dry enough. Generally speaking a painting will take somewhere between five and seven days to complete.
 
TP: Which artists of minimalism and abstract expressionism have inspired you the most?
SW:
There are so many that come to mind. I remember seeing a Franz Kline painting in a book while in high school that I thought was incredible, even though at that point in time I knew nothing about art history or what the abstract expressionists were trying to do. Jackson Pollock hit me hard when I discovered his work, as did Barnett Newman’s and Joan Mitchell’s. A little later it was Frank Stella and Ellsworth Kelly who blew my mind by reducing things so much while keeping that same level of intensity.
 
Stephen Whatcott Atsuko

TP: What sorts of emotions are embedded in your paintings?
SW:
I just try and paint honestly. And by that I mean working intuitively and admitting when something doesn’t feel right. When it works, it really works. By working that way you also avoid repeating yourself too much and things becoming stale. I’m constantly trying to show a sense of vitality: that sense that the image is made by the hand of a person just trying to connect with you.
 
TP: What made you move away from figurative painting? 
SW:
I grew up drawing representational images and had always felt that that was who I was. But when I found out about abstract expressionism in my early twenties it opened up the world to me.
 
Stephen Whatcott Brynhild

TP: What’s your opinion on artists using Instagram?
SW:
You’ve got to utilise whatever tools are at your disposal and Instagram is currently one of the best options out there. That said, there are various ways of approaching social media, some ways I like and some ways drive me crazy.
 
TP: How do you decide on the names of your paintings? 
SW:
Naming work was hard at the beginning. If you’re painting abstracts that are not representational then it’s kind of hard to give it a name. After a while I decided to give each painting a genuine given name. And the great thing with first names is that they always have a meaning or origin that can link up to the vibe of the piece. Also by using names that are from other cultures it can relate to a painting without any association, or for me at least.
 
Stephen Whatcott Einar

TP: What do you do when you’re not painting?
SW:
My wife and I have two kids under the age of ten so we have our hands full all the time. We get out the house when we can. I grew up in a little hillside village in Worcestershire and live nearby, so anytime we can we go walking up the hill through the woods. It recharges the soul, as does painting.
 
Stephen Whatcott Frantic edit
Stephen Whatcott Hiraku
Stephen Whatcott Lunar
Stephen Whatcott Nisha
Stephen Whatcott Surveyor
Stephen Whatcott Toren
Stephen Whatcott Tower
Stephen Whatcott Trawst
Stephen Whatcott Keala
Stephen Whatcott Roller Coaster

Stephen Whatcott has an upcoming solo exhibition at Curios Duke Gallery, 7th – 30th June, 2018.

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