PAINTING WITH COFFEE
Sitting in his local coffee emporium following its recent refurbishment, the large fresh plastered wall spoke without invitation. The voices were loud and immediate, no hesitation and a torrent of ideas and images flooded Stephen’s mind. Enough for him to down his black americano, pack up his notebook and scurry home with the voices of russet browns and deep ochres fighting for position. And this is where ‘fluid narrative’ evolved for Stephen. Since this time, experimentation continues to be part of his process with inspiration kicking-in when it can find the space in a noisy head. Today, the brown rich aroma adorns the plates of aluminium, lasered precisely to size and framed in clean aluminium lines that contrast the flow and energy of the paintings that hang on gallery walls.
Renowned sculptor and painter, Stephen Charlton continues to push the boundaries of experience and perception with his recent oeuvre. It has a complete dynamic of its own, incredibly free yet clearly distinguishable, always in balance though continually expanding. Using coffee as his chosen medium, Stephen has taken this vessel liquid and laid it bare across large aluminium plates with dramatic effect and impact. With layers purposefully created to build depth and texture, enhancing the detailed underpainting, developing each piece with its own voice. His ‘fluid narrative’ demonstrates his mastery of the language of coffee. As within language, there are structures and conventions, building words into sentences and paragraphs, resulting in stories to be shared. Whilst listening to background jazz in his studio he composes by painting his own stories within each piece, allowing a voice to shout in the depths of colour or whisper with the lighter tonal values enhanced by the reflective plate beneath. As a process, there is an endless field of experimentation and expression, creating dynamic and poetic shapes that emerge and evolve. With the use of various binders within the liquid, he can control the flow and behaviour of the coffee whatever the viscosity. Applying different intensities of coffee, he is able to allow the reflective surface of the metal plate to shine through and delight the eye and the heart at the same time. The incredible tonal values that can be achieved with coffee are infinite ranging from a rich, burnt umber to a lively yellow ochre. Stephen’s subject matter is based on his drive to experiment and unleash the qualities of the materials he is working with. With the ability to paint with any coffee blend, he is commissioned by coffee roasters to develop their own coffee DNA on a metal plate to adorn their walls. Simply put, in the art of conversation, Stephen has truly mastered the language of coffee.