New Zealand born, but raised on the beaches of Kuta, artist Davina Stephen's earliest images of Bali in 1991 had a certain pop art quality, teeming with opinionated social and political commentary on Bali and the rest of Indonesia. Maturing and growing to her majority in Bali had imparted a sense of belonging in Davina, emboldening the young artists to express her opinions on the local scene as Indonesia passed through the tumultuous 1990s.
Maturing together with her adopted home, Davina Stephens has become increasingly complex. While she has not abandoned the bright colors and spontaneity seen in her earlier work, she has deepened her personal and aesthetic explorations with sophisticated undercurrents and messages. Irony has given way to spiritualism that finds its expression through a language full of symbols, a sort of hermetic quality that melts old and new elements, Eastern and Western cultures.
This Side of Paradise
In her newest exhibition, This Side of Paradise, Stephens focuses on the image of Dewi Sri, the goddess of rice. Revered in Java and Bali, this powerful fertility goddess controls agriculture and the Asian staff of life. She is associated with the moon and is comparable to the classical Greek and Roman earth goddesses, Gaia and Demeter.
Stephens' explorations of mythological and magical themes bespeak a certain nostalgia, since, as she says, "serenity begets tension as I press the play button introducing post-industrialist imagery on a journey from the ancient to modern world, a kind of Silk Road to the Hollywood production of Lost Horizons."
Her work method proceeds by building up paintings by layers, in an obsessed tension towards profundity and multidimensionality (that explains her habit to combine a painting with a poem, using various colors and rice paper). She focuses attention on details, weaving them together in unexpected ways, so that a new, sudden appearance is revealed, when the image is viewed as a whole.
The result is that Stephens' canvases are alive, with allegories effortlessly captured in latter-day surreal landscapes. Like tone poems they stress the relevance and joy of the moment. Many embody serenity but none are static. Her art functions rather as springboards, leaping into broad spectrums of themes and emotions. Intricate storyboards, her paintings tell a multitude of stories to anyone willing to open their eyes, ears and mind.
This Side of Paradise
An Exhibition of Paintings by Davina Stephens
Ganesha Gallery at the Four Seasons Resort at Jimbaran Bay
December 18, 2008 – January 12, 2009
Open Daily from 9 a.m. until 6 p.m.
Click to enlarge
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