“From nature I discover color and lighting that I could never dream up myself.”
For the figurative painter Steve Lopes, the environment he places his figures is of paramount importance and for the majority of his works it is the Australian landscape.
As he told the Artist Profile’s Owen Craven “It’s very important as it sets the tone and atmosphere of a work. It can make or break a painting and depending on what you’re trying to achieve it can set up the psychological setting for an image. Sometimes what you respond to will create a work you didn’t expect and one has to respond to the location in an ‘improvisatory’ way which allows for interesting and surprising results. I have no preconceived notions – often I will place a figure in afterwards or as I’m working in reaction to the landscape or what is developing.”
With a city based studio, where he creates his major works, Lopes makes frequent trips into the country.
“I make a real effort to go on a number of camping trips throughout the year in different locations around the country. I like to come away with a swag of studies that feed back into my studio work,” he explains.
A point he elaborated with the writer Paul Flynn, saying “When you place yourself in a location and commit to capturing something, then it becomes about reacting to the lighting, form and colors in a natural or instinctive way. In the landscape you’re able to remove yourself from the equation, and let go… Part of the joy of painting plein air is the uncertainty, the lack of control, and I try to maintain that in the final works.”
Back in his studio Lopes is able to take the time he needs to place his figures within the landscape.
As he told ABC Rural Radio’s Cherie Mc Donald “As a figurative artist there’s a sense of narrative which you have to place. Once you put a figure in an environment a sense of story comes out of it. So you have to think very carefully where you place the figure and why are you putting it in there.”
Which goes to the heart of Lopes’ artistic endeavor. The son of Italian parents, Lopes grew up in Australia and he is exploring what it is to be a second generation Australian.
As he told Imprint Magazine’s Lesley Conran in 2014 “I really want to interpret the Australian landscape with my own idea of being Australian. My paintings and etchings are about people coming to Australia and assimilating with the land, gaining their bearings and coping.”
Lopes’ current exhibition Open Cut is on show at Perth’s Linton & Kay Gallery until the 28th of March.