Typically, the subject of a piece of art is a definitive object (a person, thing), an idea (freedom, love, hope), or a basic element (light, color). In the case of Stephan Balleux, impending, contorting strokes of paint take the lead- sometimes skewing the narrative of an otherwise traditional piece. In other pieces, these dramatic suggestions of paint take over the expanse of space with undeniable energy, inviting the viewer to move their eyes over and through the texture. They show up in different forms, in otherwise typical settings, perhaps a jolting reminder that what you’re looking at is indeed a painting. The product is both weird and wonderful.
As far as meaning goes, one must wonder if these disruptions are representations of the ugly underbelly of the human condition. Man can put on a suit, present himself in a proper manner but, ugliness, pettiness, hatred shine through, and mutilate his identity. However it may be perceived, the viewer is forced to use their imagination and conjure a narrative with or without the disfigurements and skewed features. This may be frustrating and unsettling, as we are the most comforted when images aren’t vague and fuzzy. Whatever reading you give these marks, they undoubtedly give the works an eerie, daunting feel.
The ambiguity in regard to texture is undeniable. If I smoothed my hand over the surface of a piece, would I feel the bumps and crannies of thickly applied paint, or is this texture simply implied? The tactile part of ourselves is sent into frenzy. That mystery makes the addition of these strokes dimensional and appealing, possibly even deceiving. Stephan’s masterful technique allows for these figures to disfigure faces and scenes almost believably. Like any good art, it poses the question: what is real?
Stephan’s outlook on his preferred medium of paint is refreshing. His viewpoint isn’t that his craft is to be controlled and practiced to the point of mastery. The process is more about learning and discovery than understanding. This enriching curiosity allows for an element of chance and gives power to the paint. Perhaps it is this power that allows the paint to transform itself into an organic, personified phenomenon, thrusting itself upon scenes inspired by photographic images to jumpstart creation. This artist also indulges in sculpture and video art to further explore what it means to be an artist working with a traditional medium in a digital world. He approaches his work in a multidisciplinary fashion, exploring an offering of creative options and a multitude of possibilities that come along with various media, traditional or digital. In the end, though, he is still a painter of paint.