Press

Daphne’s Art Delight (2018)

By Molly Latham

An explosion in popularity of a once revolutionary type of art is taking the Wimbledon art scene by storm.

Paintings in the style of Naïve Fold Art by Daphne Stephenson have been increasing in popularity, a phenomenon brought about by an exhibition on the life and possessions of Mexican naïve fold artist Frida Kahlo.

Stephenson, based at Wimbledon Art Studios, has been an artist and designer for more than 35 years, previously working as an in–house designer for luxury shop Halcyon Days.

After holding a week-long exhibition in Earls Court last Autumn and exhibiting “Adam and Eve” at the Royal Academy she was approached with a commission for a film.

Following the success of ‘Frida Kahlo: Making Herself up’ exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum the obsession with Frida and subsequently her art style is reaching new levels.

The exhibition opened on the 16th June runs until November 4th 2018 and shows her everyday possessions.

Kahlo, an artist who pushed the boundaries of art by adopting a ‘naïve folk art’ style gained inspiration from world that surrounded her.

Kahlo who originated from Mexico died aged 47 in 1954, often used themes of nature within her work to create new style of “surrealism”.

Themes of identity, sexuality and class were just some of the topics Kahlo aimed to explore.

So strong in Frida’s influence in Britain, that people are choosing to adorn their homes in the bright hues that are so iconic. Turquoises, pinks, reds and oranges are set to make statements in living rooms up and down the country as everybody wants “Mexicana” style – the current homeware trend.

Daphne Stephenson, local naïve folk artist and designer from Chelsea also uses her art as a form of expression to “transport people” into her “world of art” similarly to Kahlo.

She said: “I escape into exotic worlds of fantasy and tropical islands. Everything is from my imagination.”

Kahlo has had a profound effect on Stephenson’s own art endeavours with Daphne’s style becoming known as the “happy Frida Kahlo”.

Wimbledon Art Studios is a place that provides affordable art spaces for over 290 artists, makers and designers locally. Based in Riverside Yard, the studios are the perfect place to create in. Whilst her popularity is increasing with an expanding returning client base, she still finds insoiration through Kahlo saying that the artist is one of her “absolute heroes”.

Open Studios runs from November 15-18 and there is more information at wimbledonartstudios.co.uk.

The Royal Gazette

The following article was taken from The Royal Gazette – the main newspaper of Bermuda.

“If you love what you do, you just do it.” So says current Master-works’ artist-in-residence Daphne Stephenson of her fulfilling life. She might also have added “with passion”, for it takes little time in her company to realise that whatever she cares deeply about – be it art, teaching children, the welfare of living creatures, or planet Earth – is approached with complete dedication and passion.

In fact, while Ms. Stephenson has always understood the importance and value of art in everyone’s life, it is only in recent times that she has become a full-time artist. Prior to that she was a full time art teacher. “For many, many years I wanted to give all my talents and gifts to children,” she says. “I love children, and I thought if I could give them everything I knew, then one day it would come back to me, so I taught in various primary and secondary schools for 17 years. I set up and headed three art departments, and I specialised in art scholarships, which were a big thing with me. I loved to change the most discouraged pupil, who thought they couldn’t draw or paint, into a totally confident and budding artist.”

Due to the increasing demands for commissions of her primitive naïve work by client Debby Brice, whose Nassau, Bahamas home now holds the largest collection of her work, Ms. Stephenson gave up teaching. The choice ultimately led to the submission to London’s Royal Academy of Art of a huge canvas depicting Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden “before the fall – without shame”.

“Every single Adam and Eve has always been after the fall, with a snake,” the artist says. “My painting was chosen for exhibition, and they sold postcards of it for 3 years. Now a film is going to come out, in a year or two called “The Triangle”, based upon the book “The Garden of Eden” by Ernest Hemingway for which I have been asked to design the poster, based on my painting, so I am really excited about that as it is a big, big project.”

Despite modestly describing herself as an “up and coming artist with a long way to go”, it is clear that Ms. Stephenson is regarded as a significant figure in the art and design world, with British and International exhibitions to her credit. In fact, it was a promotional DVD relating to her solo exhibition in a Chelsea, London gallery which led to the invitiation from Tom Butterfield (Masterworks Foundation Director) and Elise Outerbridge (collections Manager) to spend two months in Bermuda as the artist-in-residence – an experience the praises of which Ms. Stephenson cannot sing too highly.

“The reason why I am so excited about Masterworks is that all of their colours and their style make me feel that I fit with them like a hand in a glove. I so love what they do. They are so fair, and give everybody a chance, not just the big people, but also the newcomers.” she says.

“I was reading something in an old Bermuda history book about why Butterfield Bank is so successful, and I thought, ‘It runs in the Butterfields – the totally professional quality’. They are full of dignity, integrity, honesty and courtesy, and I thought that was so much of the same reason why the bank became so successful too.”

They looked after their community and their people, and I see the same thing happening through Tom and Masterworks. I am bowled over by them. They work hard and play hard. Nothing is impossible for them, and nothing is impossible for me. Sometimes you just have to push through the face of adversity with everything going against you.”

If Ms. Stephenson has experienced adversity, there is no hint of it in her Bermuda work, which is imaginitive, colourful, and really quite magical…

Eschewing the typical ‘Bermuda essence’ of blue waters and pink cottages so beloved of many artists, she has created a body of work which is very much her own. It includes ‘wall jewellery’ featuring trinkets from here and the UK and a mirror-lined box to which are affixed miniature dining chairs, each of which is decorated as an interpretation of the eight people she would like to have as dinner guests: Tina Turner, Tom Butterfield, Queen Beatrix of the Netherlands, Prince Charles, actress Catherine Zeta-Jones, actor James McAvoy, the late Indian leader, Mahatma Ghandi; former “Flair” magazine editor Fleur Cowles.

There is also a whimsical composite painting of Bermuda which includes Churches, white roofed houses, people and vegetation on and around a conical gold mound surrounded by sea.

In quite a different vein is her traditional “signature painting” of a ‘colonial leopard’, which the artist says is “basically about the only thing I reproduce in different versions. It has been my best-seller.”

In addition to preparing for her first solo exhibition here, Ms. Stephenson has also been delighted to again indulge her love of teaching children through a series of Masterworks workshops at Saltus Grammar School, whose students she describes as “just fabulous”.

“In 100 years from now, it will not matter what kind of car I drove, what kind of house I lived in, how much money I had in my bank account, nor what my clothes looked like, but that the world may be a little bit better because I was important in the life of one child,” she says.

At home she teaches art therapy classes. Being here for two months has given Ms. Stephenson a deeper perspective of the Islandthan would be gained by the fleeting visitor. Brought up in Karachi, Pakistan, she has also lived in Lisbon, Potugal; Holland; Vienna, Austria; and travelling extensively in Africa and India. Everywhere she goes, she makes it a point to know and appreciate the people and their culture.

Of the body of work forming her solo exhibition which opens tomorrow evening in the Rose Garden Gallery at the Masterworks Museum of Bermuda Art, the artist-in-residence says: “It is all inspired by Bermuda. This is what comes of being on an amazing Island”, and she feels that it fits well with the Masterworks philosophy.

“Masterworks is so imaginitive. They like art with a difference, and they want to see new and exciting things. To me art has to be theatrical. I hope my work entertains – like Masterworks.”

Daphne with Tom Butterfield head of Masterworks Museum Bermuda

Three White Monkeys in the Jungle

The peaceful colouring and imagery displayed in Daphne Stephenson’s artwork permeate visual serenity. her gentle strokes of oil reveal her delicate touch. There are no harsh angles or bold shapes, just an aesthetically beautiful interpretation of life. She creates as if she has taken life’s hardening qualities and blurred them to appear more like a dream.

Stephenson’s choice of colours also aid her style of blissfulness. Her colours are soothing and welcoming, bringing a slight brightness to the scene and gently highlighting her shapes. The use of subtle colours enhances the scene she is creating on her canvas and gently awakens her images.

Even though Stephenson emphasizes specific strokes of the paint, she arranges them with space allowing the shapes to breathe instead of looking camped. With all the activity that is occurring on the canvas, the space between the images bring a hovering effect, which doesn’t translate into chaotic busyness but more like an airy bustle. Her style of spatial symmetry, soothing color palette and rounded images, are elements that fuse together to reveal her artistic statement. She paints with the intention of creating an escape from life’s pressures and bringing tranquillity of the soul and nature to her viewer. Daphne Stephenson has exhibited at The Royal Summer Exhibition Piccadilly, London and is the Chairman of the Association of British Naïves.

ING Bank The City 2009

Daphne Stephenson has been an artist all her life. Entirely self-taught, her paintings of full of joy, colourful and exuberance. She’s emerging as one of the foremost prolific primitive naïve artists working in Britain today.

Daphne has travelled widely and draws inspiration from her experiences to escape into exotic worlds of colour and fancy. You often find her painting tropical islands, lush vegetation, birds, flowers, sun and sea.

Alongside her painting, Daphne has always produce three-dimensional pieces that can be viewed on her website: www.daphne-stephenson.com.

Daphne is Chairman of the Association of British Naïve Artists at her work has been shown at the Royal Academy’s Summer Exhibition. She has had one-man shows at home and abroad and her works hang in collections around the world.

The exhibition is part of the ING’s UK Art Programme includes one-man shows, community art projects and sponsorship of the ING Discerning Eye Exhibition. The exhibition is held annually in November at the Mall Galleries, London SW1. Six electors – two artists, two collectors and two critics – each choose around a hundred works for display. The works cannot be larger than twenty inches in any dimension. ING offers a Purchase Prize every year, with the winning picture becoming part of our collection.

For more information or to purchase a picture, please contact Clara Harrow (x6721) or Lara Webb (x6373). A price list is available from the reception desk. Daphne is kindly donating part of the proceeds to ING Chances for Children, which works with UNICEF to provide access to education for children in Zambia,, India and Ethiopia.

The Cornishman 2006

The Association of British Naïve Artists (ABNA) opened its first every exhibition as a group in St Ives last week.

Set up in 2002, ABNA was formed by Peter Denham, whose article in an arts magazine in 2003 prompted huge interest from like minded artists.

According to members of the group, Denham was driven by a desire to take // mainstream credibility for the // .

Judy Joel of ABNA said: “He did think that it was a little strange that despite the fact that in sale rooms and galleries naïve // passes hands regularly with five and // figure sums, it still appears to have no mainstream legitimacy in England and // given much gallery attention or // within the popular art press.”

// Denham died in 2004 he frequently expressed his dream to bring naïve art more credibility, and it was a legacy that is being continued by ABNA whose members now 32.

Last week The Naïve Eye opened at the Mariners Gallery, St Ives – the first ever exhibition ABNA has held.

The website of the association is www.naïve-eye.com where most of the members have paintings to view.

Information can also be seen on the website of the St Ives Society of Artists www.stisa.co.uk under the heading “exhibitions”.

The exhibition at the Mariners Gallery, Norway Square, runs until Friday, June 2, and is open daily from 10am until 6pm.

For more information please call Judy Joel on 01736 731823 or 01736 732877.