Wendy Stokes: Out of Bounds

WITH A FOCUS ON MATERIAL, SUBJECT AND SELF, WENDY STOKES TRANSFORMS SIMPLE GESTURES  INTO EXPANSIVE MASTERPIECES UP TO SIX METRES IN LENGTH. KEZIAH MOORE WRITES.

Expansive is an understatement for the work of artist Wendy Stokes. Guided by her experiences of walking through coastal landscapes, Wendy’s ethereal paintings explore gestural forms and shifting rhythms of place. On first glance the work of this New South Wales North Coast-based artist is visually direct: a myriad of blue punctuates a white canvas large enough to engorge peripheral vision. Yet these seemingly humble blue lines slowly entice you in, to reveal seductive nuances and shifts in surface.

While undertaking an Internationale Cite des Arts residency in Paris through the University of New South Wales, where she studied a Master of Fine Arts Research, Wendy became deeply interested in Claude Monet’s expanded format works. “This research enriched my practice,” she says. “It reinforced my commitment to interpreting landscape through the integrity of connection to a sense of place and belonging.”

Now, with a career spanning more than 30 solo exhibitions in commercial galleries in Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide and wider regional Australia, Wendy’s works are an accumulative experience. While walking through her coastal surrounds Wendy acknowledges and stores physical and mental sensations which she later recalls in her studio, her hand gesturing as her muscles remember their earlier stimuli.

“[My] process echoes the coastal landscape I inhabit; dissolving boundaries, shifting viewpoints; a surface on which nature and water acts; washing, soaking, staining upon the shore, while twisting vegetative screens allow for a calligraphy reflective of nature’s fragility and strength,” she tells.

The immersive scale of Wendy’s work, often up to six metres in length, places the viewer within the geography and perspective of the landscape she demarcates. “These seemingly simple works take time,” tells Wendy. “I re-enact and reconfigure [my experiences] as I walk the length of the canvas. What is always interesting is that you are rarely in the same place psychologically from one day to the next which always provides a fresh approach each day.”

Her practice falls at an interesting crossroads between painting, drawing and printmaking, working across a range of acrylic polymers, water-based printmaking inks, oil sticks, graphite and coloured pencils. Each material facilitates a different mood, from soft, subtle and expansive to sharp, direct and focused. Above all, Wendy’s work is about integrity. Integrity of material, of subject and of self. At the end of our conversation Wendy speaks directly of our current situation in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. For her, it is a dramatic reminder of the need to reflect and reassess basic values. “It has reinforced my commitment to the value of integrity; who I am as an artist and the spirit of simplicity, humility and beauty of everyday experiences.”

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