Stephen Chambers RA (born 1960) makes use of an investigational figuration to invite the viewer into a series of imagined narratives. Exploring themes of identity and nationhood, his graphic, often illustrative style portrays a series of dream-like landscapes alongside the characterful figures who inhabit them.
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Early Career and Training
Stephen Chambers first studied at Winchester and Saint Martin’s School of Art, before receiving an MA from Chelsea School of Art in 1983. The period which followed saw the artist receive numerous awards and residencies, notably the Mark Rothko Memorial Trust Award and a fellowship at Kettle’s Yard, Cambridge.
In 2012 Chambers presented his work The Big Country, a mural sized screen-print consisting of 78 individually framed sheets which together filled one whole wall of the Large Weston Room galleries at the Royal Academy of Arts. The tapestry-like topographic scene was conceived following Chambers’ travels in the American Mid-West, and explored themes of discovery and community through the depiction of an imaginary, inner landscape and its inhabitants. The work was produced as part of the RA Artists’ Laboratory, and subsequently travelled to the Pera Museum, Istanbul, in 2014.
Despite the often fictionalised basis of his imagery, Chambers’ work remains connected to the social and political realities of contemporary life, as in his recent work, State of the Nation, three works completed in succession following the announcement, campaign and conclusion of the EU referendum in the United Kingdom. An enduring theme remains Chambers’ ability to simultaneously imply and provoke narratives through a restrained articulation of scenery and the human figure.
Chambers’ most recent body of work, The Court of Redonda, was produced for the Venice Biennale in 2017, and was subsequently shown at The Heong Gallery at Downing College, Cambridge. Following his introduction to the writings of Javias Marías, Chambers embarked on the production of 101 individual, fictional portraits of the legendary literary Kingdom of Redonda: a thought-experiment and investigation into the notion of a utopian society governed only by creative individuals.
Exhibitions and Awards
After more than forty solo presentations, the artist’s work is now held in the collections of Arts Council England, the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York and the Victoria & Albert Museum, London, amongst others. The artist was elected a Royal Academician in 2005, and awarded an honorary fellowship at Downing College, University of Cambridge, in 2016.