He looked. He saw what he observed. He painted what he saw.
He became someone of interest to the Swiss essayist and best-selling author Alain de Botton who, in The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work, wrote a chapter about working artists that describes him as one who ". . . sees his art as born out of, and hoping to inspire, reverence for all that is unlike us and exceeds us. . . His devoted look at a tree is an attempt to push the self aside and recognise all that is other and beyond us", starting with that 250-year-old tree, ". . . an ancient looking hulk in the gloom, with its erratic branches, thousands of stiff little leaves and remarkable lack of any direct connection to the human drama. . . ."
Heady stuff, that, and it sent me in search of the representational painter named Stephen Taylor.
Taylor usually can be found in Colchester, United Kingdom. He began his career as a student of art history, learning about the fine arts at Leeds University and doing post-graduate work at Essex University and Yale University on, for example, perception and technique in the English romanticist painter John Constable. Part-time, he taught art theory and art history. After a bit, in addition to academics, he took up painting, developing his style and refining his skill primarily through commissions. Suffering loss, he undertook to "refocus" his attention on "observed contemporary landscape", producing work from his time in that single field in North Essex that led to exhibitions at King's College, Cambridge, and Vertigo Gallery, Shoreditch, in London.
Taylor's paintings take as their diverse subjects his art school experience and observations of landscape and oaks, as well as figures (such as those of his altarpiece "The Hospitality of Abraham"), London, night and moon, and, most recently, water.
Taylor writes, too, and that writing extends to essays on what he calls "new nature painting", the representation of birds such as swallows and blackbirds, as well as the oaks he has come to know intimately.
Not content with these disciplines alone, Taylor is also working with the computer scientist Dr. John Cupitt, of Imperial College, to develop a method of digital color analysis.
Taylor's sensibility — his looking and what flows from it —might not be, as my English friend says, everyone's cup of tea, but, as comments de Botton, for me and others the work does fulfill "that most ancient task of the painter: to re-enchant the world."
Alain de Botton's The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work may be purchased here. For a review of the book by Glynn Young, click here.
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