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Posted 18.09.20

Born in Derby and now living and working in London, Stephen started his artistic career at Derby’s College of Art and later studied at Canterbury College of Art. While at Canterbury, he met a group of artists influenced by American abstract painters and this modernist inheritance has played a crucial role in Jaques’ art, throughout its development. A frequent exhibitor at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition Jaques has also held recent exhibitions at the Saatchi Gallery, and his work is in private collections around the world.

Before we sat down with Stephen we caught up with friend of Turnbull, stylist David Nolan, the man responsible for introducing us to Stephen and his artwork. Recalling his first encounter with Stephen, a studio visit arranged over Instagram, David, who styled our AW20 campaign, said:

"There is a natural ease and elegance in the way that Stephen dresses – classic knits, worn cotton tailored jackets and beautifully aged denim. When choosing the pieces for Stephen's outfits for the AW campaign, the choices were clear straight away, a beautiful effortless chunky knit, and the elegant revere collar shirt. The neckerchief felt like a lovely choice, as it is close to the one Stephen had worn the first time we met at his studio."

That same studio, the one that he has inhabited for 25 years, is the very same studio he invited the Turnbull team to capture him in for our campaign, we caught up with him there too.

Turnbull: We are particularly drawn to your work for its geometric forms and flawless use of colour. What is your relationship to colour, and could you talk a bit more about your 'hard edge' way of painting?

Stephen: Colour has always been central to what I do, the cement that binds together the form. I am drawn to the idea of “sacred geometry” as the building block that underpins all existence. At the same time, there is scope for improvisation and playfulness.

You have not always worked in this way, your early works appeared much more free form. While studying at Canterbury College of Art, you encountered the Abstract Expressionists. Looking back to that time in your life, how much do you think those artists have influenced your practice? 

Yes, at Art School the type of painting that had the most influence definitely came from America. What I loved (and still do) was the ambition and epic scale, as well as the sheer joy in colour and painting.

We are delighted to have photographed you in your fascinating studio, it is an incredible display of shape and colour. You have been that studio for the last 25 years, how has the space, or your use of it, developed in that time?

25 years in the same space is a long time. You get to know every nook and cranny to the extent there is no distraction from the work. Practically speaking I need more space! I would love to work on a huge scale.

Your studio is beautifully chaotic in contrast to the strict geometry you deploy in your paintings. Is the relationship between chaos and order something you think about with regards to your work?

Chaos and order are the two sides of all creation, Dionysus, and Apollo.

All my ideas originate in freehand drawings, rapidly executed. As they develop, they crystallise into more solid form, while retaining, I hope, the spirit of adventure in the original drawing.

In recent years, you have increasingly experimented with sculpture. How different is your approach to artmaking in 3D?

The 3D works grew naturally from the paintings. I never had the intention of making sculpture as such. I see them as playful maquettes for great monuments!

One of our favourite walls of your studio is covered in sketches of first ideas, all dated from the past few months. How has working in lockdown affected your practice? And, given the current climate, how has the wider community of artists in your building been affected?

I think the events of this year have had a profound effect on many people and artists are no exception. I have found it a very productive time, enabling me to explore and develop new ideas, free from any distractions. In this respect, I am extremely fortunate, and I hope that eventually, as we collectively emerge from the current situation, there will be many positives for everyone.


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Daniel Challis

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