Stephen Wilks

  • Napoleon Napoleon
  • 2006, wood, cloth, padding, 120 x 155 x 280 cm
  • 2006, wood, cloth, padding, 120 x 155 x 280 cm

Bridgwater in Somerset, England, is the hometown of Stephen Wilks, born 1964. He began studying Fine Art and English Literature at the University of Canterbury (Bachelor Degree) in 1987. From 1991 onwards he studied art on the European continent at the Ecole Nationale Supérieure des Beaux-Arts in Paris and the Rijksakademie in Amsterdam, from whom he received a grant. He later went to live and work in Berlin, Germany. Photography, drawing, painting, and sculpture are Stephen Wilks’s main media. In his photographs, he constantly crosses over between street photography and conceptual photography, the latter concentrating on found abstract images within an urban context, such as a radiant blue rectangle painted on a house wall, as seen through a fence. Or he utilizes a recurrence of colours, like a shiny white, used paper handkerchief, which is formally repeated in two white water-birds that are seen through the barrier of the bridge on which the handkerchief rests. He catches desultory moments and random constellations, which become meaningful through his interpretive view.

His drawings and paintings are concerned with the transitions of forms and meanings. A footprint of a rubber sole turns into a map of the city with high-rises, the globe is morphed into a turtle’s shell and the lines of a hand become a map of public transport, with stations like pills, disappointment, and compensation. This is a thorough questioning of both reality and our mental mapping of it, an investigation into the origin of our ideas of how many similarities exist, what the nature is of simulacra simulacrorum, of self-referential relations and analogies. This is contemporary urban thinking at work, culminating in the insight that we are going on with life, but without really knowing how or why. The transitional area, the twilight zone between the real and the mental image of reality, is the door to Stephen Wilks’ imagination, which has great associative potential.

In 1999 Stephen Wilks sewed together a life-size donkey from fabric, which accompanies him when he travels or simply goes for a walk in the city. Since 2005, the artist has been working on his “Animal Farm” project, for which he creates a number of different sculptures, masks, drawings, photographs and performances. For Stephen Wilks, the animal parade is not simply illustrative; rather, he strives to update subjects from Orwell’s book and other animal tales within the framework of specific contemporary contexts. His work reflects on the failure of political systems, on man’s superiority, on power and subjection, but also on the reversal of power relations, the animals being carried by the humans, made visible in his sculptures and performances.

Museum Exhibitions

Stephen Wilks, Sep. 10, 2015 - Nov. 2015, Bonnefantenmuseum, Maastricht, Netherlands