The Dystopian Worlds of Steven Tabbutt

New Conquistador

I have a sneaking suspicion that the illustrations of this week’s featured artist, Steven Tabbutt, will be polarizing. Some will be attracted and intrigued by his chaotic, dystopian art, while others will be turned off for that exact same reason.

Whatever the reaction, there’s a lot going on here, in both subject matter and technique. Whereas some artists invite you to into their worlds, in this case it may be best to take it all in from the sidelines. At first glance his work is almost an assault on the eyes; there’s so much going on, so many colors playing off each other, so many colliding shapes and lines. His work is a contradictory push-pull of innocence and impending doom, populated by characters who looked the were pulled from the pages of art history books. Much like our real world, the scenarios he creates can be restless and chaotic, yet it’s nearly impossible to pull your sight from them.

Tabbutt’s interesting, multi-layered technique adds to this muddled effect, as he utilizes everything from pastel to acrylic and photomontage to print, the colors often in conflict with one another, the use of bold lines and empty spaces all helping to nail down the foreboding inherent in each picture. But even amongst all these busy goings-on, works like “Lola” and “Another Day In Paradise” represent a brief calming in the midst of the chaos.

To that effect, his work blurs the line between classical painting and more contemporary design and illustration techniques while his subject matter delves into art history, folk tales and the modern digital age. Indeed, many of his subjects appear as if they’ve been transported from another world, not really sure of where they are.

The result is some of the more disquieting, disorienting, yet fascinating work that I’ve displayed in a while. Pro or con … where do you stand on the surreal work of Steven Tabbutt? See more of his work at his website.

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About Stephen Kelly Creative

Hi, I'm Stephen Kelly, a writer, editor, photographer and graphic designer living in beautiful San Francisco, CA, USA. Amongst the things I love are writing, photography, movies, music, fitness, travel, Batman, all things Australian, food and fun, all of which I hope to reflect in this here blog. Welcome aboard ... now let's get busy!
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13 Responses to The Dystopian Worlds of Steven Tabbutt

  1. viveka says:

    Another interesting artist …. Also a new to me again. You’re truly great on finding them and to introduce them. What do I have to say about this artist – Love the main piece, even if it’s a bit frightening – it carries a threat.
    Some of his art has this threat and some is very light hearted, playful, and romantic – then there are piece that combines the two. I don’t know if I would invest in any of his pieces … but I find his work very interesting.

  2. Dystopian is right! Although, he’s almost CHEERFULLY dystopian, if such a thing exists. Like engravings, almost classical, but with jarring aspects from Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts’ Club Band art included. I don’t know if this explains it at all, but I took my best shot….

    • Hey Victoria … the very first thing I thought of when I first saw his work, particularly the illustration at that top of this post, was Sgt. Pepper’s! Almost like “I Am The Walrus” is cheerfully dystopian. Looks like the Beatles influence runs deep!

  3. Angeline M says:

    Wow, I surprised myself. When I saw the first photo at the top of your post, and read your words, I was sure I was not going to like this artist’s work. I LOVE it! There were only two or three pieces that I did not care for. The lines and color are fantastic in his work.

    • Hi Angeline! So glad you liked this work … your enthusiasm comes out in your writing. I still don’t know where I stand, but I find it intensely interesting and daring. I’m glad a lot of people have reacted in the positive. It shows there are a lot of open minds out there who want to be challenged!

  4. Madhu says:

    Mostly pro I think. I find them arresting…..some sinisterly so!
    You should consider starting art appreciation classes Stephen 🙂

  5. Hi madhu … well, that’s not a career path I had thought of, but I think I would be good at that.
    Glad you liked this work … I’m still on the fence. I find it at once really fascinating, but really busy, although I’m finding that taking the time and effort to really look deeper is very rewarding! The scope of his vision and imagination, and how he uses that with his art history influences, is awesome.

  6. Paula says:

    I found it a bit disturbing.Thank you for the most interesting presentation, Stephen!

    • Hi Paula … me too. To me, it’s almost like seeing a car wreck; i’m repulsed but I can’t turn away. graphically, i really love his technique. really fascinating … is that a pro?

      • Paula says:

        I am not qualified to say, but on the other hand who is? We know things that go “as art” today. I have seen “the diver” several times, and I can’t shake if off, though I don’t get the title.

  7. Kongo says:

    I love it when I have to look up new words and dystopia is one I added today. It’s a great word to describe this art.

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