An important exhibition that explores prints by the British artist Norman Stevens (1937-1988), from the first black and white etchings he produced in the 1970s to his vividly coloured, large-scale screenprints of the 1980s.
Trained as a painter, Stevens was one of the ‘Bradford Mafia’ – an exceptionally gifted cohort of students at Bradford College of Art that included David Hockney RA, Michael Vaughan, John Loker and David Oxtoby. After graduating from the RCA Stevens built a career as a landscape painter and teacher, at Manchester, Maidstone and Hornsey Colleges of Art. In his later career Stevens became renowned for his work as a printmaker. He held regular exhibitions of both his paintings and prints at The Redfern Gallery and other venues including the Arnolfini. Stevens’s work is represented in the collections of the Tate, the V&A and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. He was elected an Associate of the Royal Academy in 1983.Taking up printmaking in the early 1970s, Stevens taught himself the various techniques of this medium including the complicated process of mezzotint. Printmaking suited Stevens’s meticulous approach, enabling him to produce images of great precision and subtlety.
At the heart of the display are several important series of prints, beginning with Stevens’s early explorations of the visual effects of sunlight on Venetian blinds and ‘clapboard’ houses. It also features his powerful depictions of the iconic pre-historic monuments at Stonehenge and Avebury and his captivating views of English formal gardens. His prints combine technical mastery with a poetic evocation of the effects of light and shade on the landscape and built environment. While never depicting any figures, works such as Morning (1974) and Clapboard House, Fronds and Architectural French Curve (1973) allude to a human presence, producing an intriguing quality that has been likened to a game of hide-and-seek.
Norman Stevens ARA: Selected Prints [26 February – 25 May 2014] at Royal Academy of Arts, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London W1J; royalacademy.org.uk