Title : Ephem
Artist : Stephen Burke
Year : 2021
Medium : Spray paint, graffiti removal spray, found stickers, chewing gum on perspex.
Size : 40 x 60cm
Stephen’s ambitions are to highlight a new visual understanding within our built environment and to explore the cultural divide between street and gallery. He is interested in cities’ social fabric and how architecture attempts to bring order to these spaces. To capture this concept, Stephen produces photographic documentation of urban areas focusing on traces of anti-social behaviour. He photographs the residue from graffiti removal, broken fencing, sprayed construction markings and stained mosaics found in public space, a type of urban decay voyeurism that can be linked with psychogeography. Stephen uses this ‘visual waste’ to build his own painterly language. Within the studio, he translates these documentations into a series of artworks. The resulting works are testimonials to the dialogue between those who mark public space and those who clean it, reinforcing the idea of public space as a contested arena. The use of steel, tiles and perspex within his work underscores the systems implemented through architecture and speaks of the cityscape’s materiality. These systems are juxtaposed through mark-making and staining methodologies using pollutants, emulsion, adhesives, and spray paints, which accumulate on the works’ surface to obscure the imagery and call attention to human intervention. After that, the composition is stripped back using sanders, chemicals and various other manipulations. The resulting back and forth relationship references the sociological tension between order and disorder while simultaneously implying degeneration and vandalism. These ideologies are reflected in our cities and their constant state of both construction and deconstruction.