How Brazilian brilliance swayed London artist Stephanie Wilkinson

Art and auctions, Exhibitions, People and Places — By on May 27, 2018 at 8:49 AM

Stephanie Wilkinson with Bottle Mural.

How Brazilian brilliance swayed London artist Stephanie Wilkinson

By James Brewer

As the song says, there is an awful lot of coffee in Brazil, and London artist Stephanie Wilkinson has an awful lot to thank Brazil for.

Stephanie’s maternal great-great-grandfather was an explorer who travelled widely before settling as a coffee trader in the northeast of the South American nation.

Stephanie arranges her cushion display.

Four generations later, Stephanie was born in Recife, in an area close to the sea. She remembers her childhood environs as “an idyllic spot, surrounded by palm-fringed beaches, vibrant colours and with seemingly endless sunshine. At weekends, the family would drive through sugar plantations to picnic on the sands and swim.

Cushions sitting comfortably.

Her early life in Brazil has in the long run influenced her artistic penchant for ambitiously-sized canvases sporting bold colour, usually with a captivating tropical ambience – pursued too in her designs for soft cushions, coasters and cards – and it sparked her passion for travel.

Like her footloose ancestor, she has moved around, spending five years in Indonesia, but most of her life in London. “I felt very disconnected [from Brazil] for a long time, until I went back in 2004, and suddenly it feels like home again,” said Stephanie on the opening day of her most recent exhibition, at the spring fair of the Landmark Art Centre in Teddington, west London.

Cushions and coasters.

That turning-point 2004 visit, when she was accompanying her husband to a climate change conference in Salvador in the north-eastern state of Bahia, sparked a longing to see more of Brazil. In the following years, she and her family travelled to Rio de Janeiro, Manaus, Brasilia, the Iguaçu Falls, Recife, São Paulo, the Pantanal and the Ouro Preto region.

Travel, still life and interiors are persistent themes for Stephanie in what began as a hobby, was developed through art school and is now an exciting career.

She showed her largest work to date at the Landmark fair, from May 18-20, 2018. It is the latest of her immersive, vivid acrylics on canvas, the four-part Bottle Mural, the panels each 90 cm by 90 cm. It is bursting with appealing shapes and geometrical embellishments.

Lunch at the Villa.

For that type of operation, she starts with charcoal, creating a defining line “so I do not lose my way.” Working in a steady, linear manner, she likes to “sketch it and paint it and sketch into the paint.”

She emphasises: “I like a strong structure. Structure is very important, and colour is very important.”

In her confident vision, the influence of Matisse’s colour and line is evident, enhanced by an exhilarating sense of empathy. The unashamed outlining of objects evokes even the style of Modigliani.

Stephanie’s feature cushions with their arresting, radiant fabrics bring three-dimensionality to the party and will brighten the walls of any house or conservatory.

Even by the exacting, eye-catching design standards of Brazil, she is much appreciated. In May 2015, she was a finalist in the first Visual Arts Award exhibition at the Brazilian embassy in London. Her image there, Monuments of Glory Across the Seas, depicted architectural landmarks reflecting the aspirations and achievements of London and Rio.

Sadia Qazi.

Brazil is merely one of her inspirations. Others include the floral textiles of Josef Frank (1885-1967) a Swedish modernist, and traditional Japanese prints.

Exhibitions and venues which have featured Stephanie (www.stephaniewilkinson.co.uk) have included a solo show at the Barbican Library, and group events at Mall Galleries, Lightbox Gallery of Woking, Lloyd’s Art Society, Fountain Gallery of East Molesey, Surrey, Sunbury Embroidery Gallery and many art fairs.

Attracting some 80 exhibitors, the Landmark Art Fair has spring and autumn editions, with painting dominating but other visual art having a striking presence, including printmaking, photography, jewellery, glass, ceramics and sculpture.

Mandala. By Sadia Qazi.

The Landmark centre is a massive, transformed 19th century church built as St Alban the Martyr. It was designed on the scale of a French cathedral for a congregation capacity of 1,200 but fell into disuse and disrepair in the 1970s before being restored, thanks to a campaign by local people to save it from demolition. Since 1995, it has been an arts centre run as an independent charity.

At the Landmark spring show, exhibitors included Sadia Qazi who displayed beautiful flower clusters in acrylic and an outstanding canvas based on a mandala and entitled Peace.  Sadia clearly devoted great pains to her intricate and appealing interpretation of one of the most precious symbols of Hinduism and Buddhism.

Poppies. By Meghana Sengupta.

The word mandala is Sanskrit for circle. Buddhist monks who travelled the Silk Road carried mandalas and spread their presence. Mandalas have a ritual role, representing Buddha, the centre of creation or the ideal form of the universe, and in recent times have been adopted widely for creative work. The tranquillity of the setting rendered by Sadia serves as a reminder that mandalas are used to focus the mind during meditation.

Meghana Sengupta presented a selection of her mixed media works including Poppies, a studio painting from memories of the fields, capturing perfectly the transient beauty and elegance of the flower. Meghana gained her diploma in contemporary portraiture, another of her specialities, from the Art Academy, an independent art school in central London.

Meghana Sengupta.

In her artist’s statement, Meghana, whose family is from Mumbai, says that her work “explores her true inner life.”

She “adopts an intensive creative process in the interpretation of her deepest thoughts, hidden emotions and strongest desires, producing imagery which manifests a synergy of her childhood absorption of Indian art traditions and the Western art imagery she has chosen to immerse herself in as an emerging artist.”

She has found “that a combination of extensive patience and intuition is required to capture the essence of a sitter to best convey their inner character rather than merely their physical appearance.”

 

Landmark Arts Centre.

Meghana was nominated for the Sir Philip Trousdell Portrait Prize 2017 and her works are in private collections in the UK and abroad. She was VAANI Asian Women Artist of the year 2017. VAANI is an organisation named after the Sanskrit term meaning inner voice. It sets out to be the “voice of Asian women writers and artists” and works with disadvantaged Asian women and people with learning disabilities and dementia.

At the Landmark spring fair.

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