The creative process is as enigmatic and mysterious as it is elemental and universally replicated. Every artist or maker grapples with a driving creative spirit or intention, while contending with a host of other practical considerations and halting points along the way. As a result, this entangled process of seeking/making is often marked as much by friction, desperation and uncertainty as it is by a euphoric sense of achievement. Rather than being detrimental, this struggle or search for resolution inevitably imbues the work with a crackling energy; a feeling of vitality and emotional resonance. It is what propels the artist to create, to fan the flickering spark of potential and hope it catches fire.

For Anthony Stephens, this process is an essential part of his practice; something that feeds and drives the desire to create. A means of self expression that is demanding, and which ultimately becomes a kind of relief once realised. Stephens describes how he initially began painting as a form of therapy. Having struggled with mental health at a young age, painting became a way of reclaiming his passion and creativity and an important new form of communication and connection. This union between the emotional and the technical considerations of artistic practice is something that can be felt keenly in his intimate and engaging body of work.

It is a practice beautifully documented in a series of montages and short clips posted to the artists social media. Works appear to emerge rapidly from tonal underpainting and delicate line work. There is the sense of something growing from nothing, a skeleton form developing flesh and sinew. The image of a small, wet brush hesitantly poised above a large canvas, the artist deliberating where or how to start. Trepidation and careful consideration give way to flowing strokes and confident movements that might adjust and temper as the work progresses. Faces and bodies emerge, human and recognisable, containing a spirit of their own.

The figures in Stephens works are fastidiously composed through a process of photographing, staging and manipulation. Often arising from an inherent collaboration with the subject, these compositions always reflect something of their energy or personality, and in this way invite the viewer to meaningfully contemplate their own condition and engage in a sort of dialogue with the work. Some of these paintings reference art history in a playful or meaningful context, highlighting the nude or human form as a figure carrying inherent emotional, historical and political resonance. Emerging from rich dark backgrounds amidst bold tones of black and red, they are brilliantly visceral and raw, glowing with emotionality, vital with gesture and tension. Within these static performances, they somehow maintain that sense of movement and tension, drawing it out and holding the gaze.

For Stephens, the most satisfying stage of the process is the penultimate moment of preparing the finished work to be encountered and seen/felt by others. With this act of relinquishing, and through the response and interaction of the viewer, comes the titular feeling of catharsis. That pivotal moment of release, providing relief from the intensity of creative pursuit and a moment to process the experience and value of making.

Words by Zachary Calleja. 

Eight, 2020
Oil on board, framed.
63 x 92cm



Seventeen, 2022
Oil on linen.
152 x 214cm



Fourteen, 2021
Oil on linen. 1
53 x 200cm



Twenty, 2022
Oil on board.
134 x 300cm



Twelve, 2020
Oil on board.
45 x 60cm



One, 2023
Oil on linen.
183 x 122cm



Three, 2023
Oil on linen.
62 x 46cm



Four, 2023
Oil on linen.
61 x 198cm