Inside the mind of Stephen Bush

Exploring the creative process of an Australian artist featured in Vitamin P2
Share
Portrait of the artist Stephen Bush (right) and his work Kapock (2010), Oil and enamel on linen, 200 x 310cm (left)
Portrait of the artist Stephen Bush (right) and his work Kapock (2010), Oil and enamel on linen, 200 x 310cm (left)

Stephen Bush graduated from Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology in Fine Arts in 1978 and has since gone on to have a prolific professional career, both in Australia and the US. It's been built on a series of works, each created through a different aesthetic approach but linked by a surreal sensibility. Beekeepers, rubbish bins, alpine scenes, Babar the elephant, men on horseback - his chosen subjects are diverse and atypical. Bush's painterly range is as varied and free flowing as his subject matter. Moving from lurid abstraction to figuration realism, he creates guttural juxtapositions of the visceral and the sublime.

Who are you?

Hmmm: what a tricky, confronting, and confounding question. (These are the kinds of questions all artists fear.) Does anyone really know who they are? Well, it is possibly the enlightened, spiritually-centered people, who are few and far between, who have the leg up. Is this not life’s work, to either seek, define or resolve that eternal question? Who am I? What is the purpose of life? What’s it all about? The real question is, can art answer any of these existential queries? Conversely, I am in my own cave making marks.

Stephen Bush, Lady Campbell Weed Lord Adelaide (2011), oil and enamel on linen, 76.5 x 71.5cm
Stephen Bush, Lady Campbell Weed Lord Adelaide (2011), oil and enamel on linen, 76.5 x 71.5cm

What’s on your mind right now?

Right now, I am thinking that this morning’s coffee is better than yesterday’s. Much better. And, it is the seemly insignificant minutiae of daily life that holds central importance to one’s own life, even if one acknowledges and engages in the major, messy global affairs that surround us like dense fog. Somehow good coffee takes precedence. Other flotsam in my mental sphere: rat-tail files, the color orange, the notion of significance—does it have any?

How do you get this stuff out?

Ah, the romantic notion of the painting process and some cathartic, genius-inspired “aha” moment is the stuff of mythology. The canvas is the repository for a melancholic stew: a mixture of sentiments wrapped up in the opportunity and struggle that the act of painting presents. Meaning and process—these ideas are such a tangle. There is no conscious logic, set of directions, or guidelines, that I follow. Rather, the picture is there, somewhere in the ether, and despite constant attempts to distract myself, the only way to find it is to start.

Stephen Bush, Rhodamine Mabel Bungaara (2011), Oil and enamel on linen, 121 x 96 cm
Stephen Bush, Rhodamine Mabel Bungaara (2011), Oil and enamel on linen, 121 x 96 cm

How does it fit together?

I am not sure whether it, whatever “it” means, ever does fit together. I suppose part of my work is inherently struggling against having things “fit together”. The interesting moments occur when logic deteriorates and formal barriers erode, thereby creating opportunities for friction and tension to surface. I am never really sure if that happens. In the end, I am only really painting pictures.

What brought you to this point?

Time.

Can you control it?

Control implies the heroic gesture; and, yes, on one hand that’s the quest, to compose “significant” work, but then in the cool light of day, questions sink such a noble effort into the murky waters. Ultimately, you are always suspicious of yourself.

What’s next?

More. Or is it moor?

Stephen Bush, Groninger koek (2009), Oil and enamel on linen, 46 x 51cm
Stephen Bush, Groninger koek (2009), Oil and enamel on linen, 46 x 51cm

Get inside the mind of more artists from Vitamin P2 here:

Inside the mind of Glenn Sorensen
Inside the mind of Serban Savu
Inside the mind of Xylor Jane
Inside the mind of Ellen Altfest
Inside the mind of Antonio Ballester Moreno
Inside the mind of Milena Dragicevic
Inside the mind of Lesley Vance
Inside the mind of Li Shurui

Sign up to the Phaidon newsletter to get future updates.


You May Also Like


Related




HOME OF THE VISUAL ARTS

Phaidon is the premier global publisher of the creative arts with over 1,500 titles in print. We work with the world's most influential artists, chefs, writers and thinkers to produce innovative books on art, photography, design, architecture, fashion, food and travel, and illustrated books for children. Phaidon is headquartered in London and New York City.
Read more