For background on the artist and works, see below.
About the ArtistThe intriguing, surreal work of Dunedin-born painter and printmaker Eion Stevens is distinctive both for its pared-back style and double-edged humour, presented in paintings using signature flat planes of strong colour to create a stage for the unexpected. A critic once described the work of this nationally recognised artist as “creating the sense of being in a strange world of paint where anything is possible”. Stevens is well respected for his originality, his ability to seduce and then disconcert, the very deceptive pared-back execution which always delivers an ‘emotional hit’ and reveals more and more irony with viewing. Often it’s an offbeat sense of humour laid over a more solemn, sometimes disturbing meaning. His titles are often part of the visual pun. He is a very honest painter: he shows us his own dreams, memories and foibles and intends us to bring to it our own experience. Stevens’ works originate in free association of ideas. He creates a “visual collage” within the painting, the planes of flat colour sometimes like a stage set with hidden scenes just beyond, ready to be played out. Figures and icons lurk behind the wings of his stage, or jut into the space, implying another level about to unfold. Music is a common theme, especially guitar playing, a sense of the musician transported to another place or perhaps travelling with his world on his back…
Eion Stevens has turned increasingly to working on paper following the destruction of his studio in the earthquakes, however there is often a fresh direct expression of ideas evident in these works. The larger paintings incorporate a semi-realist aspect alongside the typical flat planes of colour, strong works carrying his signature sense of double entendre and ironic humour.
The noted Pah Homestead Gallery (housing the James Wallace Collection) staged a major retrospective of Eion Stevens’ work in 2013, leading to a further surge of collector interest in works by the artist. The Pah Homestead has an extensive collection of his work from the past 30 years.
More About the Artist
Born in Dunedin in 1952, Eion Stevens studied both printmaking and painting and graduated from Otago Polytechnic School of Art (Hons) in 1973. He studied at Exeter College of Art, England in 1974-75 and in Europe later in the 1970s. He has exhibited nationally since the 1970s, and his works are held in public and private collections here and overseas..
His individuality and ironic imagery has attracted a steady following among collectors both through national auctions and exhibitions around the country and seen his values rise steadily although he remains one of the most affordable mid-senior investment artists.
A period living in Lyttelton resulted in the sea featuring more prominently in his work, but the Christchurch earthquakes forced a return to the city, and to working primarily on paper, sometimes the medium with the most startlingly fresh compositions. Alas, the earthquakes destroyed Eion’s studio and storage and with it many of his early and major works, yet like many Christchurch-based artists he continues undaunted.
His work has been written about in major NZ art publications including NZ Art – A Modern Perspective by Elva Bett, 100 New Zealand Paintings by Warwick Brown, and in Art New Zealand.