Mixed-Media techniques in the case of Lynda Steven’s Artworks
“During the creative process, it is only the feelings that govern.” Lynda Steven’s artworks are often built on this premise. They are planned, constructed, formed, shaped, worked on and built upon, and in fact her paintings are not just easel paintings, but are just as much, small sculptures too. The painting and patterning genres are combined – and created out of different mixed-media materials. Exploratory new dimensions shaped by these unique and hybrid forms draw us into a different world in which dreamlike visions are rendered from an entire storehouse of differing artistic techniques and lined up in front of us.
The Southampton-born artist graduated with a first degree from the University of Warwick, in English/Italian literature. However, at that time in the early 80’s, a severe economic crisis hit the UK. According to the account of the artist, this created a massive oversupply of labour within the workforce market so that she was left unable to take her place within her area of expertise. The artist subsequently decided to turn this difficult life situation round to make an opportunity out of it to further her artistic career. A two-year painting course led to a certificate with distinction at The Leamington College of FE, then she enrolled to study at Coventry University, completing with a new certificate as a creator in “‘Craft Materials” in which the interest of a craftsman stands alongside the appeal of an artist for the world of light and forms, which play an important role here. During these years as a student in art she had by now become acquainted with painting techniques, as well as with textiles, ceramics and metal as they are applied in decorating each surface. In this way, two components, those of patterning and painting, combined to bring into full expression the mature creative personality of the artist. Since the beginning of her artistic career, her work has been exhibited at several venues, these including the Budapest Cultural Centre (1998), the Mansfield Gallery (2006), the Müszi (2014), Gallery 48, Váci Utca (2016), the Corinthia Hotel Gallery (2018) as well as at a group exhibition at the Pro Art Gallery (2019). Lynda Stevens’s talent was also exhibited at the Spon Street Gallery, Coventy (1992) and at the Bear Cave Vlery, Brighton (1995). After a second bad recession struck in the UK in the early 90’s, the artist first arrived in Hungary to teach English at a grammar school in 1996, to later become an freelancer in 2000, allowing her to both earn a living as a teacher and to continue with her artistic pursuits at the same time. “I have been involved in my creative path for my whole life, studying and immersing myself in it, even while pursuing a day job. It will continue to be my true calling in the future too,” says the artist. Stevens stands by these words as a productive creator up to the present day. The artist simply lists herself among the category of contemporary artists whilst at the same time sympathising with a particular group of artists that support the aspirations of the so-called remodernists, whose stated goal is to stand in opposition to the post-modernist turning of art on its head. In other words, remodernism is a kind of mindset.1 Those individuals who belong to this category do not think that modern art is rubbish, nor do they believe that communication through art is impossible and they are of the opinion that the aim of their art is about personal spirituality. However, this is not equal to religion, the latter more to do with articles of faith and rules. Their aim is rather the search for love and truth, as they make the attempt ‘to put God back into Art.’
Lynda Stevens has already been creating non-figurative artworks since the beginning. With these an imaginary world is already observable, alongside an attraction to abstraction. Later on this tendency is fully realised in her artworks. In her pictures figurality is at a minimal level, triangles and angular geometrical forms being present, reminiscent of the shapes and forms of buildings. In her artworks a frequently recurring symbol is that of the pyramid, which symbolises another world and the unknown. The pyramids are always cut out of glittering metal foil, which “reflect back the light, like a light in the darkness.” Another preferred symbol is that of the volcano. This encapsulates what the motivating factor is here, like someone who can bear what erupts from the subconsious with both creative and destructive strength. There is simultaneously the expectation of something positive and at the same time fear, a sense of threat and tension directing the work.
The most favoured artistic medium here is that of mixed media, in which various materials are used as the basis. Among the materials used, enamel, canvas, acrylics wax, gold, silver and copper wax paints, glass fragments and metal can be listed.2 The works are built layer upon layer, in which paint always forms the basis, although wax, paper and clay also play an important role. Painting an undercoat with oil on canvas is a popular technique,3 however Stevens does not use these in a traditional way. She purchases machine-woven, factory produced artificially prepared canvases, so does not make use of gesso foundation.4 Working on a raw canvas without using any kind of underpaint can result in dull colours and matt hues with an overly suctioned sufarface. However, paints applied on pre-prepared canvases bought in shops can also possess positive features, such as fiery, vivid colours and shininess. Once the base paint surface is applied, the next step can be conveyed. Candle wax does not depend on oxidisation from the air to affect any paint applied over this. This latter is often melted and poured on the canvas, sometimes left to solidify on its own, or water is poured over it while it is still hot, to create a bubbled, cratered surface. The layers of paper glued under this may be left visible. It is a feature of the painter’s preparation of the surfaces that the paint applied over this is often thickly lubricated, so that this results in a plastic kind of a surface. The dense, sticky materials may be applied with a flat knife or even fingers sometimes, and after drying, durable, hard and resistent layers are formed. Resistance to sunlight, at lest in the case of those paintings that use clay as opposed to wax layers, time and abrasions is therefore extraordinarily high. Stevens likes strong, although often dirty, colours in which the qualities of the paint are thankfully, easily realised. When working with enamel paints, sometimes adding this to acrylic to create a bastardised marbling effect, she uses white spirit as a solvent. She also applies interference paints (more often in the past, enamel) over dried acrylic surfaces, which add a yellowish sheen. From the copious viscous fluid of molten wax, the results desired can be achieved, with the help of interference painted over acrylics. The artist definitely has a liking for determining features, so that after drying, extra layers of reflective paint will add a shine. Although there is a tendency towards some yellowing, Stevens makes little use of solvents with the thickly-applied paints. With oil paints at least, gilding the work with a protected layer is always recommended, it needs to be finished.5 Some kind of fixative is needed or else any simple varnish may suffice as an alternative. In any art shop a choice can be made from among either gloss or matt varnishes. However, the artist usually does not use any kind of gilding, preferring instead to use glitter or interference paints after the acrylic has dried, instead. Furthermore, the painted layer is merely the basis of her works, building on her mixed technique.
Kurt Wehlte wrote about his raw painting materials in his manual, thus formulating: “In some cases artistic factors can also decide whether the elastic, more malleable linen surface, or hardboard should be placed as the backing of the painting.”6 Lynda Stevens’s artworks are not limited over what backing there is either, and she has been happy to use hardboard as a basis.7 Wood as a mixture of different natural materials – even after artificial processing too – forms an uneven surface, which provides a good bonding foundation for the the pigments. Paint can be used on any kind of backing – and therefore on wood, too. There is a topcoat, therefore the basic colour cannot be seen through any layer of paint. The colours, in both a wet and dry state, are of the same intensity. Synthetic paints are are weatherproof and colour fastness is long lasting. It dries slowly and the thicker the paint layer applied is the longer the drying time is. We cannot talk about the cracking of the paint due to the way material is used (thick layers of paint) and the porous base of the artist’s creations. The second layer is often that of a smoothed-over clay or gypsum surface. Embedded in this soft mass of carefully selected materials, different kinds of patterns or small glass fragments, both clear or coloured, (spirals are a favourite) are imprinted into the thick primer. After that, – omitting certain areas – another layer of paint again follows, which may be either acrylic or enamel oil paint. This gives it a most impressive, varied surface finish. After this layer has dried, this is in turn painted over with a reflective interference colour. The artist likes acrylics too, which dries far more quickly than oil does and can be used on almost any kind of surface. It is an extraordinarily durable material that is weather proof időjárás and with a high degree of wear resistance. One of its important qualities is that it forms an irreversible, insoluble surface that cannot be altered. In the case of this mixed-media technique, that is not a disadvantage, moreover, as an intermediate layer it plays a suitably cohesive role. On the topmost layer, textile, glass or metal foil pieces are placed, many times these form figurative elements, as for example in the cases of the often employed pyramid motif. These materials crown the artwork with outstanding plasticity and lustre.
The artist’s mixed-media artworks created from these techniques of different spacial dimensions open up in front of us. Multi-coloured surfaces encounter straight planes, which form buildings. The soft colour shadows lead us into a dream world, where nothing is clear. The patterns and forms only hint at some kind of meaning, concrete figurative elements are only rarely recognisable.
“I work mainly in Mixed-Media, but I also like to make mixed-media collages on paper too, which I often work on.” The artist’s collages are more matt, depicting less intensive pictures. Paper is softer, its more easily workable material warmer, exuding a more intimate atmosphere. In this case of canvas rather than paper-based work, the layer is glued onto the canvas. Aquarell is liberally used too8, which a next to the soft effects of the colours gives a layered effect. The word ‘aqua’ means ‘water’, therefore we are talking about water-based paints. Exceptionally, the aquarell as defined here is made of solvent and not of binding materials (gum arabic),9 it is not a topcoat, in contrast to oil paints. In this way it is possible for the artist to create subtle tones with laquer. The paint is here applied in thin layers, and as a lacquering technique is smoothed all over the surface, giving it a translucent effect. The foundation can be seen through the colours, or the layers of the previous layer of paint. In many paintings, Stevens allows for the previous layer of paper or canvas to be visible láttatja, moreover, sometimes metal foil, with which adds still further depth to the relationship between the viewer and the work.
In the course of working there is often no plan to the artwork, the patterns emerge automatically. During the process of creating the work, a series of impressions appearin the mind of the artist. “Sometimes it can take a long time for the work to come together, on other occasions it comes together almost at once.” The completion of the works does not go hand in hand with a title in mind. The themes, sometimes of a spiritual, different world, are mixed in the mind of the artist, ideas leading to another dimension. “For me, in painting and drawing it is always the form, texture and pattern, in the process of exploring their obscure language where memories, impressions and creating artworks are intertwined in one process.” The title comes at the very end, only when the product is complete is it given one. These are mostly short of just one or two words and are often generic rather than specific, in this way easily lending themselves to the artist’s obsure sphere. After consolidation the finished work is stacked in the artist’s studio area, waiting for the opportunity to be presented by the artist at the next exhibition or happening.
“ During the creative process, it is only the feelings that govern,” Lynda Stevens states about the process of creating. Led by the subconscious of of personal impressions and moods of reflective monuments so that raw materials under the hands of the artist are transformed into works of art.
Lynda Stevens art page:
http://lyndastevens.com/ 2019. 05. 10.
Her art page on Facebook:
https://www.facebook.com/Nexus7s-Artwork-106665059986/ 2019. 05. 10.
Lynda Stevens exhibition at the artist website of Müszi
http://muszi.org/?event=now-and-then-lynda-stevens-kiallitasa 2019. 05. 09.
Lynda Stevens page at Absolutearts.com-
https://www.absolutearts.com/portfolios/l/lstevens/about_artist_lynda_stevens.html 2019. 05. 05.
Lynda Stevens works atBehance
https://www.behance.net/nexus7 2019. 05. 05.
Lynda Stevens works on the Saatchi Art Galéria website
https://www.saatchiart.com/Lynda 2019. 05. 10.
Gombrich, E. H.: The History of Art and Reflections, published, Budapest, 1978
Kovács Nemere: The History of Art. MEK, (2015)
http://mek.oszk.hu/14000/14064/14064.pdf 2019. 05. 10.
Szabó Attila: The History of Canvas Art. Veritas Publisher Győr, 2005
Szőnyi István (szerk.): His Art School I. Győző Andor Publisher, Budapest, 1943
Wehlte, Kurt: Art Raw Materials Balassi Publisher Budapest, 2001
List of Works shown Here:
1. Gold encrusts on mother of pearl (2007)
2. Lava (2008)
3. Volcano eruption (2012)
4. The city and the volcano (2017)
5. Dreaming pyramids (2018)
Reader of The History of Art
2019. 05. 30.
1 https://www.absolutearts.com/portfolios/l/lstevens/about_artist_lynda_stevens.html 2019. 05. 04.
2 It can happen that the artist may sometimes find the materials she is looking for on the street, for example broken glass from a car window, shattered mirror shards, that will find their way ito a painting.
3 German masters were already uaing these in the Fourteenth Century, e.g. Jan and Hubert Van Eyck). ld. Szabó Attila: The History of Canvas Artwork,Veritas Publisher, Győr, 2005, 110. p.
4 There Mny kinds of foundations that are obtainable. From these the artist may choose gesso, but does not use these in a traditional way, but rather in order to produce a plastic-like surface.
5 Latin-based word,meaning varnish.. On protective coating: Szőnyi István (szerk.): The art school of Győző Andor Kiadó, Budapest, 1943, 35. p.
6 Wehlte, Kurt: Art and raw materials ands techniques Balassi Kiadó, Budapest, 2001, 20. p.
7 This in all instances relates to air-dried wood,as living wood loses its moisture after beingf worked on: Wehlte, Kurt: Art Raw Materials and Techniques Balassi Kiadó, Budapest, 2001, 362. p.
8 Ancient painting materials. Wehlte states that the Acient Egyptians already had knowledge of water paints, illustrating the Book of the Dead with these as well as their sacophoguses with them. In the Middle Ages könyvfestéshez, drawings, maps painted in colours were used, with a particular fondness for small illustrative paintings. In the 17th Century IN Holland, landscape Paintings were Painting USING AQUARELL.tájképeket festettek akvarellel. In the 18th-19th Centuries the most significant representative of these was William Turner. ld. Wehlte, Kurt: Raw Materials and techniques in Painting. Balassi Published, Budapest, 2001, 30 https://www.absolutearts.com/portfolios/l/lstevens/about_artist_lynda_stevens.html 2019. 05. 04.3. p.
9 Wehlte, Kurt: Balassi Publisher, Budapest, 2001, 303. p.