Alan Steeves-Booker

Art Statement: Alan Steeves-Booker

My paintings use free-form methods to simulate the effect produced by someone rearranging the pieces of several puzzles, or rapidly flicking the pages of an illustrated book. I am interested in complexity and the way in which our immediate visual experience is overlaid by projected memories and arbitrary thoughts. I have exhibited work at the Flat One Gallery in Cambridge, at the Connoisseur Gallery and the RIBA Architectural Art Show in London, and at the Stroud House Gallery in Gloucestershire. I contributed work to the Amnesty International fundraising event for the Israeli dissident Mordechai Vanunu, and also to the Museum in the Park, Stroud. Recent private commissions have used themes based upon individual life stories, with historical, political, and fictional commentaries. I use acrylic paint, children’s colour, industrial paint, silicone, acid, and digital graphics.

Background. The pastoral qualities of the Berkshire village in which I was born were soon to be engulfed by a large American airbase. My father was an engineer and also a professional photographer who had documented rural life since 1914. He was the official photographer for the engineering company where he worked, and his record of wartime production, juxtaposed with that of the idiosyncratic life of the community, produced a poignant portrait of a society undergoing dramatic and permanent change. At school I studied the art of Chagall, Klee, and Dadaism, which offered new ways in which to perceive the contradictions of the world.

In 1958 l became a student at the architectural school in Oxford, where I joined a progressive movement which challenged what we considered to be outmoded and elitist teaching methods, and the dehumanising effects of modernist architecture. I became interested in New Wave cinema, and formed a free-style jazz group which participated in theatrical collaborations, influenced by the dramatist Bertholt Brecht. In addition to abstract work and tachism, I painted my childhood landscape, full of elm trees and poor people scavenging on military rubbish dumps.

Upon qualifying as an architect I moved to London and designed hospitals, theatres and cinemas. For a brief and disenchanted time I worked on the design of a large marina, which, when completed, succeeded in compromising the unique qualities of a south-coast resort. As a counterbalance to the increasingly commercialised practice of architecture I occasionally worked at the Architectural Association, which had an international reputation as a school free from academic dogma and bureaucratic interference, where architecture, art, ecology and politics co-existed creatively.

In 1974 | was offered a post at the School of Landscape Architecture in Cheltenham, to teach art and graphics. I introduced a ‘ten-second’ sketching technique, as a replacement for traditional and laboured drawing processes, and I also taught landscape design theory, which I incorporated into experimental studio projects, using large-scale modelling and video.

My current work draws upon these background experiences, and aims to transcend them by using layers of intense colour to distract and involve the viewer, and to open different perspectives on reality.

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