Review / Tragedy and quiet beauty in Stevens’ art

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Canberra Contemporary Art Space Kate Stevens, East Aleppo 2, 32, 2018, Oil on canvas.

IN Kate Stevens’ paintings the warm sun shines on the dusty ruins of Aleppo and on the hillsides near Braidwood.

The paintings of Aleppo are larger. Blurred shapes of streets between multi-storied buildings recall the once busy life in the streets of this ancient city. In others, the images of bombed ruins are more distinct. They are viewed from a high vantage point – from a drone flying over the city. The paintings draw the viewer into these scenes. They have an immediacy, also warmth.

The landscapes near Braidwood are smaller. The foregrounds are a darkish brown-grey and indistinct, the viewer’s attention is drawn to the light shining on the distant hills. The viewer is further back from these scenes, and there is a feeling of quiet.

Kate Stevens’ “Scenes from an Afternoon”.

Kate Stevens’ paintings examine and re-examine scenes from contemporary life. Fleeting footage from war-torn Syria, rushed over in the nightly news, is given time to breathe in her paintings. The scenes around Braidwood are those from the side of the road – a threshold of sorts, between the quiet of the distant hills and the busy drive from Canberra to the coast.

Time spent with her paintings allows the viewer time for an alternative understanding of the packaged news items on television covering the war in Syria. There is time to consider Australia’s role in this war, the impact on the people who lived, those who still live, amidst these ruins. Also time to consider the impact on the people in Canberra and elsewhere, defence personnel, charity workers and people with family in Syria, who have been caught up in this tragedy. Also the value of peace, and the quiet beauty of the hills around Canberra.

[Kate Stevens recently won the inaugural $50,000 Evelyn Chapman Art Award.]

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