In his vividly embroidered textiles, Anthony Stevens touches upon a wide array of narratives, thoughts and themes. Ultimately these artworks are about the human being, our behaviours and the confluence of our inner and outer lives. In the artist’s own words ‘why we do what we do, and why we are the way we are’.
Self-taught as an artist, his deep desire for research and learning is visible in the myriad and often complex ideas he negotiates in his art. Jungian analysis, comparative religion, pop culture and metaphysics appear filtered through the flotsam and jetsam of his everyday thoughts, experiences and dreams. For many years Stevens wrote poetry, and his enjoyment of words and word play finds bold expression in his visual art. Observations of fleeting experiences are recorded in fragments of sentences, text and poems in notebooks which he carries with him. A strong Buddhist practice gives Stevens an openness to the present moment in everyday life.
Motifs from cultural myths, religion, philosophy and fairytales all appear in his work. These symbols are often old and deeply routed in our human psyche, but can be overlooked due to their simplicity. In his monkey imagery Stevens is referencing the Buddhist concept of the monkey mind - one constantly in a state of reactivity and endless chatter, where innate curiosity and action is not matched by wisdom. As he takes the time to carefully and slowly stitch his images into material, Stevens observes how a concept which was personal to him and his experience becomes more of an archetype, morphing into a consideration of our shared humanity; the monkey takes on the symbolism of the constant chatter and stimuli of our contemporary society.
These textiles are beautiful, hand-crafted creations which guide us towards an understanding of our shared experiences as humans. They encourage us to slow down, and lead us towards a realisation that rather than being apart, we are part of something larger than ourselves. He believes that we can learn by looking more closely at the processes of nature - that we are all subject to the same life cycles as a flower, or a tree, or even the stars, just operating on different timeframes. His message of belonging, understanding and the constant flow of life is reassuring.
In the past few years, Anthony has had both solo and group shows in London, Brighton and Frankfurt.
Anthony Stevens and Andrew Omoding discuss their joint commission 'Common Threads with Outside In' for HOUSE Biennial in 2017.