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  My artistic philosophy  

Beauty and decoration
In my pictures I seek not to be fashionable but to evoke something timeless. I reject ugly, chaotic modernity for the beauty, ornament and elegance of former times. I admire the great epochs of aesthetic exuberance and magnificence: the Vienna Secession, Art Nouveau, Art Deco and the Aesthetic Movement. These were golden eras of aesthetic delight that had a simple credo – ‘Art for Art’s sake’. The Aesthetic Movement, which heralded all three others mentioned, had as it’s main impetus, the idea that the ugliness and pollution of the industrial revolution could be healed by a beauty revolution. While the excesses of industry have been tamed and have transformed into utilitarian technology, humankind still has a need for a beauty revolution.

Beauty and decoration were not, of course only limited to the epochs mentioned above. They have always been part of human culture. And they always will be. All art is decorative, more or less.  Humankind responds emotionally to beauty and decoration. Posterity remembers Gustav Klimt but it has forgotten his contemporary Adolf Loos - who denounced the ornament of the Vienna Secession as a ‘crime’.

My pictures are meditations on the nature of beauty. I believe in the traditional notion that beauty gives pleasure to the soul for those viewing it. More than that I have witnessed this process at my shows. Strangers have told me what a power of good they have felt after seeing my work.  

In exulting beauty I invoke the awe of perfection; I suggest that beauty has a spiritual dimension. For me, becoming enraptured in beauty is a form of ecstasy; something akin to a religious experience. I fully concur with the Renaissance notion that held that the celebration of the human body (and by extension corporeal beauty) is an echo of the perfection of God.

For me there is an overwhelming majesty in a gothic cathedral, a Beardsley print, a Klimt painting, a Secession vase or a Chiparus statuette. All are examples of aesthetic pleasure; something that gives value and meaning to life itself; something that is almost a substitute for God in an irreligious age. Beauty has a transcendental and transforming quality, taking us out of our ugly, mundane existence and taking us to a higher plane. Beauty, like virtue, is an end unto itself.

Depicting women
I consider himself to be part of a very long tradition of depicting women, one that stretches way back in time, back through Art Deco and Art Nouveau… back through Klimt, Alphonse Mucha, Paul Gauguin and the Symbolists... back through Utamaro and the artists of the Floating World... back through Renaissance portraits of the Madonna... back through Greco Roman statues of their female gods... back to ancient Egypt and their worship of female deities and Queens... back to the first known sculpture; that of the ‘Earth Mother Goddess’.

I depict the way a woman feels about herself or how she would like to be seen. Or, more accurately, how she would wish to be adored.

There is an adoration of women in my pictures that, in some small way, can be linked back to previous adorations of women, most notably the worshipping in art of the Madonna. It could be argued that the sheer number of Madonnas painted during the Medieval and Renaissance periods was an attempt to usurp the stern, hellfire, masculine energy of Jesus, his Apostles and the Saints with the kinder, forgiving energy of the ultimate woman.

It is this soul of the female, the female anima that I am trying to evoke. The four art and design movements mentioned at the beginning of this text all have the female anima as a central theme. The same could be said of art movements such as Symbolism and Surrealism. I love it all!

Vienna Secession
The Vienna Secession is seen reductively as the Viennese version of Art Nouveau. But it is much more than that. The Art Nouveau that came from Belgium and France was highly stylized and instantly recognizable with it’s flowing, organic lines.  I love the Vienna Secession because it took a geometric approach instead of an organic one. This meant that it ultimately had greater staying power in the 19th century. It also meant that the Vienna Secession would go on to be the ‘missing link’ between Art Nouveau and Art Deco.

Klimt is the main name that is popularly known from this period. But the Vienna Secession – and the subsequent Wiener Werkstatte - was comprised of many other very talented artists and designers. Amongst them were Koloman Moser, Josef Hoffmann, Otto Checsha, Michael Powolny and Dagobert Peche. If you look closely at my pictures here you can see that I have borrowed something from all of these men.

Art Deco
Almost all of my works are Art Deco orientated - or at least they all carry an Art Deco sensibility. I love Art Deco's magpie-like use of ornamentation, the linear structuring of forms, the elegance, the exuberance and simply the pure extravagant fun of it.

Art Deco aspired to glamour. It created fantasy worlds that were designed to take you out of hum-drum reality and put you into a world of aesthetic pleasure. The Art Deco period (1909 - 1939) was a hugely important juncture point; a crossroads where the old world met the new world. It was a place where the ancient overlapped the modern. It was where the energy of Art Nouveau ended up after crossing the bridge that was the Vienna Secession.

And it was the arena where millennia of Greco-Roman stylistic dominance finally succumbed to the moderne style. In Art Deco streamlining and feminine ornamentation met the powerful masculine, modern technology of ocean liners, locomotives and automobiles. Unlike Art Nouveau, Arts and Crafts and the Vienna Secession, Art Deco was a democratic style, available to all. Initially it was only for the elite - as seen in the Art Deco luxury of the ocean liner, the Normandie. But then it devolved to the masses; they were able to purchase mass produced streamlined products of the 1930s.

On paper, Art Deco appears to be a melting pot of styles. Yet somehow Art Deco manages to retain a set of rules and a consistent integrity. It developed it's own signature look and feel, one that has stood the test of time. And it is one that still reverberates loudly today, particularly in so-called 'Post-Modernism', which is really Modernism made less austere by re-incorporating some Art Deco sensibility into it. In Art Deco we find perhaps the one and only time when fun, fantasy, imagination and glamour were aspirations that were universally celebrated by a design movement.

The Art Deco period was also a time when Hollywood and it's stars still had mythological status. It was a time of magnificent picture palaces, the Ziegfeld Follies, MGM Busby Berkeley musicals, gangsters and molls, speakeasies, great cars, great costumes, glamour, elegance and fun. Art Deco encompassed all that and more. Some of that glamour, of that 'otherness', I have tried to put into my work.

Art Nouveau
Art nouveau may be seen as old fashioned and the stuff of museums and auction houses. But these environments imbue Art nouveau with the taint of death.  For me the vigour, eroticism and fecundity of Art nouveau is very much alive. I love the ethos of Art Nouveau; a return to nature and a worship of the feminine aspects of the natural world. It was a modern reworking of the pre-bronze age idea as woman as goddess. The late 19th century put women centre stage as subject matter. Art Nouveau was a kind of catharsis of this woman--centred art. While it was created mostly by men, it celebrated the spirit of femininity. It was erotic, sensuous, fantastical and decadent - four of my favourite elements in art.

Art Nouveau sought to rewrite the rectilinear rules of architecture. In the work of architects such as Gaudi, Victor Horta, and Henri Guimard the female anima dominates. In doing so the work becomes infinitely more than utilitarian. It becomes otherworldly and transcendent. It goes from being architecture to art.

This was the major influence that kick started all of the art and design movements mentioned above, even the Aesthetic Movement. Europe discovered Japanese prints in the mid 19th century and nothing was ever the same again. Japonisme was the primary catalyst to impressionism and therefore to the entirety of modern art. European art had become stagnant, bloated and dull. It had become deadened by the ‘salon’ and by self-serving, dim-witted patronage.

Japonisme reminded European art about abstraction; about flattening colours, about decoration, composition and above all simplicity. European art had lost touch with these things in it’s pursuit of so-called painterly ‘perfection’. Taking on board the lessons of Japonisme, Impressionism heralded a new age of vibrancy, freshness, colour and decoration, the likes of which had not been seen since the art of Filippo Lippi and Botticelli in 14th century Italy.

An entire generation of European painters allowed Japonisme to enter their work, amongst them the pre-modernist greats: Whistler, Toulouse Lautrec, Van Gogh, Klimt, Manet, Gauguin.

I find the period from 1875 (the date of the first Impressionist exhibition) to the 1930s a fascinating one. So much happened and so many great painters came to the fore in this ‘belle epoch’. And so much beauty was created. (In my work you will find influences and homages to the various movements and art from this period. Yes, even Japonisme. See my ‘Oriental’ gallery.)

More was accomplished in terms of aesthetics and beauty in the fifty-five years after 1875 than has been achieved since the 1930s. Humankind has a huge and ongoing need for an art that speaks to the heart and soul, rather than one that speaks to the mind and the wallet.  Attendance figures for museums and exhibitions that focus on the painters mentioned above, prove what I said previously; we need art to take us out of our ugly, mundane existence and lift us up to a higher plane.

Stan Eales 2012