Stephen Chambers RA’s ‘The Big Country’ travels to the Pera Museum

West meets East

Published 3 June 2014

The RA is curating a major exhibition in Istanbul of prints and paintings by Stephen Chambers, including his giant screen print shown at the RA in 2012, writes Emma Hill.

  • From the Summer 2014 issue of RA Magazine, issued quarterly to Friends of the RA.

    The RA has collaborated with the Pera Museum in Istanbul to present a major exhibition of Stephen Chambers RA’s work, one of the first occasions an international show of an Academician’s work has originated at the Academy. The RA’s curator Edith Devaney has brought together over 100 works on paper with selected paintings to reveal Chambers’ versatility in different media.

    The Pera Museum, which opened in 2005, is a fitting venue to view the work of a British artist whose influences are drawn from many cultural and historical sources. Its programme encourages dialogues, combining international exhibitions with a permanent collection of Orientalist paintings, Anatolian weights and ceramics from the Ku?tahya region of Turkey.

    The exhibition focuses on The Big Country, an enormous print Chambers made for his ‘Artist’s Laboratory’ exhibition at the Academy in 2012. When Ozalp Birol, the Pera’s Director, saw the work’s scale and ambition at the RA, he thought that it could reveal many aspects of the traditions of European printmaking to a Turkish audience. Chambers’ show in Istanbul runs alongside a display of Warhol prints in a curatorial move to emphasise the importance of print practice in contemporary Western art.

  • An installation view of Stephen Chambers RA’s print, The Big Country, from his ‘Artist’s Laboratory’ show at the Academy in 2012.

    An installation view of Stephen Chambers RA’s print, The Big Country, from his ‘Artist’s Laboratory’ show at the Academy in 2012.

    © Stephen Chambers.

  • The Big Country pays homage to the vast landscapes of the American Midwest and abounds with vignettes about departures and meeting points. These pictorial representations will doubtless strike a chord in a city founded on the ancient trade routes of Byzantium. Hung throughout one floor of the five-storey building, the print is related to Chambers’ early canvases, etchings and monotypes, as well as two series of panel paintings in which the artist revisits works by William Blake and Brueghel the Elder.

    Chambers often describes his images as ‘ignition points’ for the imagination and a rich tapestry of references has been woven into the exhibition. Paintings including Amongst Rabbits (1993) and St Ursula (with hound and love), from 2006 – which look to the 15th-century painters Dieric Bouts and Carpaccio respectively – illustrate how he often draws from art of the past as a catalyst for image-making. Elsewhere, monotypes from the series ‘The Martyrdom of St Ursula’ (2006) link Venice and Istanbul as ancient gateways between East and West. By focusing on the migratory paths that art and storytelling both take, this exhibition finds common threads between cultures.

    Stephen Chambers RA: The Big Country and Other Stories is at the Pera Museum, Istanbul, until 20 July 2014.

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