Gallery: Axel Vervoordt Gallery
Artist(s): Angel Vergara
Opening / Event Date: 18 Nov, 2023
Closing / End Date: 16 Mar, 2024
Ora-Ora is pleased to announce a new solo exhibition by UK-born, US-based artist Stephen Thorpe titled Enter the Forest at the Darkest Point. The title of the exhibition is drawn from a quote by US mythologist and writer Joseph Campbell, who urges us to “enter the forest at the darkest point, where there is no path.” In so doing, we find what American poet, Robert Frost, termed the road “less travelled we learn to find our truest selves through a constant process of internal death and rebirth”. The show will open between November 24, 2022 and January 8, 2023 and present a new body of work created over the summer of 2022.
Having taught at the former Hong Kong campus of Savannah College of Art and Design (SCAD) as a Professor of Painting for several years, Stephen Thorpe returns to the city with a new body of work solely featuring his acclaimed “corner” paintings, this will be the first time the artist presents this aspect of his practice in a holistic, immersive manner. Surrounded by richly-coloured walls and an enticing wall graphic motif designed exclusively by the artist, the corner paintings question the concept of our own interiority, our own psychic space.
In the words of Ora-Ora co-founder and CEO, Henrietta Tsui-Leung, “Stephen Thorpe’s interiors are epic journeys into our real selves. Enter the Forest at the Darkest Point raises the stakes even still further, enacting the primeval drama of the forest.” Dr Tsui-Leung continued: “Stephen Thorpe is an exciting talent whose work is tremendously popular with our collectors. Although we have shown Stephen’s paintings twice this year, at Art Basel Hong Kong, and at KIAF in Seoul, we are delighted to be presenting him for the first time in our new Tai Kwun gallery.”
Stephen Thorpe has won acclaim for the exuberance of his opulently furnished interiors, creating a landscape and mood which sees the corner not as a dead end but the primary catalyst for an honest mental narrative. In this exhibition, he references the noble tradition of European tapestries, depicting with lavish detail the finely detailed, sinuous luxury of the Gobelin world (a French family who produced characteristic tapestry in the mid-15th century), creatively transferring woven imagery from thread to paint, and from wall to floor.
Thorpe’s domestic interiors may be considered a stage for drama in the theatre of our minds. In this exhibition, however, Thorpe draws upon the drama and enchantment of the forest, a place long synonymous with our need to overcome and to prevail in the face of opposing forces, imagined or otherwise. The challenge is to master ourselves and defeat the malevolent forces within us. In so doing, we seize the chance to become who we really are.
In these works, the artist is reminded of the legend from ancient Mesopotamia, the Epic of Gilgamesh (circa 2700 BC), a seminal work in the tradition of heroic sagas. Gilgamesh (King of Uruk) first clashes with Enkidu, a wild man created by the gods to stop Gilgamesh from oppressing the people of Uruk. Following a battle, the two become friends and make a six-day journey to the fabled Cedar Forest, where they plan to slay a monster and cut down a sacred cedar. When Enkidu is killed, Gilgamesh undertakes a long and perilous journey to discover the secret of eternal life. Like Thorpe’s paintings, the journeys – both entering the forest to slay the monster and the hero’s mission for immortality – are stories of self-discovery.
Creative storytelling matches a unique painterly vocabulary, demonstrated through three notable techniques: finespun, dry-brushed rugs; abstract and viscous planes of colour (rendered as walls); and delicate figuration, represented through spellbinding graphics. The dry brush technique is used to great effect by using the canvas weave not only as a ground for the painting but as the actual weave of the rug itself. His use of impasto to construct his “corners” nod to celebrated artists including Frank Auerbach, Gerhard Richter, Leon Kossoff and others – and the graphic elements are the most representational of all in the works and often act as the “way in.”