A WILD KINDNESS | Stephen Pleban

A WILD KINDNESS | Stephen Pleban

MAY 16 - JUNE 8

In 1980, experimental musician Bill Nelson released a single titled “Do you dream in colour?’ The accompanying video clip, mostly shot in black and white, and along with most of Nelson’s creative oeuvre, was heavily influenced by film-maker, poet and artist of the surrealist movement, Jean Cocteau. Nelson’s full playlist circled surrealist notions about dreaming and the way in which the subconscious responds to, and informs, conscious thought.

The art practice of Stephen Pleban interrogates some of the same ideas. Standing before one of Pleban’s paintings is like being immersed in a colourful dream state, when images from the imagination are vivid and real. His luscious works, dominated by rich hues of purple, orange or green lead to places imagined but never visited, to scenes familiar yet strangely illusory. They invite one to linger in untouched landscapes where biodiversity thrives, and conversely, in those we inhabit where the survival of species lies in the balance.

Concerns around climate change inform Pleban’s works, but these otherworldly depictions also tangle with more intimate themes such as the gestures and behaviours that enable human connection.

The environment within Pleban’s painting provides a touchstone to a familiar genre. Classical foundations of depth and perspective underpin our visual understanding of the landscape, which is then subverted with a playful hand. Pleban tricks the horizon to advance and recede offering dual readings of pictorial space. Dripping globules of paint like dark matter seep through the picture plane tearing open the fabric of reality. A single static image becomes phantasmagorical – cave mouths morph into night eclipsing day, space leaks into the atmosphere, sky rains into the mountains. Within these compositions we accept the fantastical through the established visual language. The rhythmic recession of trees into the distance, a figure obscuring geographic forms, the stoic presence of the horizon provides refuge in which to suspend disbelief.