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.