THE HAFNIA FOUNDATION
Between Sand & Water
From 29 September to 28 October 2016
The majority of Stevens´ recent works has been produced outdoor. Not long ago, he embarked on a boat for a desolate island to paint. Here, the water that dashes onto the shore, the sand on the beach, even the sea breeze, and the paint interacted. The pictures´ patterns went through a transformation from Nothing to Something, and again from Something to Nothing, changing in myriad ways in just an instant. Stevens regarded himself as just a fellow in an association of creators. Water, Wind, and Sand, for Stevens, are not just materials or elements to paint with but participants in painting, essential components in the process of creation.
In Chinese traditional theories of painting, the Nothing (Wu) and the Unpredictable (Kongling) are key concepts in the experience of nature and objects. Generally, the painter would start by observing visible patterns, but only via the process of painting, the concealed, underlying patterns in the background – the sphere of the Nothing - can be discovered and shed light upon. The traditional Chinese concept of Flavor and Vitality (qiyun shengdong) is related to the dialectical relationship of the Nothing and the Something. In Stevens´ practice of painting, the concept of Nothing derives from his individual experiences in life and he continuously utilizes it to approach the realm of most profound truths. The existence of Nothing can be experienced by any kind of creativity. While painting, the appearance or disappearance of a shape can be understood from the idea of Nothing, because it is time that commands the visual.
As I see it, shapes in Stevens´ paintings are but a medium for his personal experience of and expression through ceaseless motion. In the case of water, sand and wind, rather than saying they produce one shape after another, I think that they – created by all kinds of indeterminacies – in a motion penetrate the sphere of the Nothing layer by layer.
Over the many years Stevens´ has been living in China, the philosophical thoughts of Laozi oftentimes lay on his lips. When he started to paint, it was the element water that inspired him. On one occasion, Stevens´ was painting outdoor when it suddenly started to rain. Under the pouring water, the painting exhibited a vicissitude of colors that was impossible to anticipate or imagine. This moved him very deeply and he said: “water is a color, the water is the painter.”
The paintings in the current exhibition, the shapes that seem as if they fell from heaven, and the colors create a space that reminds me of the ancient Chinese concept Flavor and Vitality. I can strongly feel that these paintings´ inner nature does resemble the spirit of traditional Chinese painting.