press release

From June 4 to July 16, 2005, the Fabian & Claude Walter Gallery Zurich will show recent paintings by the artist-couple Alice Stepanek & Steven Maslin. At the same time, sculptures by Japanese artist Hideki Iinuma will be presented in a sideshow in the back of the gallery.

Alice Stepanek ( 1954, Berlin) and Steven Maslin (1959, London) move in a certain area of tension between nature and culture with their paintings which they create working in close association, since more than twenty years. Not just because they represent natural phenomena within an artistic and thus cultural context. The problems of interweaving and mutual conditionality of nature and culture are the actual topic with which Alice Stepanek & Steven Maslin deal with in their works.

Only when you first glance at them the artist-couple’s landscapes, accurate in every detail and striking one as almost photorealistic, seem to take their place in the tradition of mimetic representations of nature. Through unusual perspectives, surprising elements, and subtleties in colouring, the viewer is being provoked into looking more closely and encounters, then, a nature which is familiar and strange at the same time. The doubled rows of meadows on some of the paintings, for instance, question the convention of singularity of natural phenomena and refer to contemporary problems of cloning. The plants’ unnaturally glowing colours in a night piece are unsettling and make one think of radioactivity. Through Alice Stepanek & Steven Maslin’s paintings the viewer is being stimulated to reflect his own visualization of nature and reminded, at the same time, that each individual’s reception of nature is influenced by his or her personal history and cultural background.

In fact, the perception of nature in Alice Stepanek & Steven Maslin’s works is always a human and culturally marked one. In the artists’ earlier paintings this often has been hinted at only softly, through the dynamic representation of motifs which ties up with a speeded-up perception of the environment today. In recent works the presence of man is not just a suggested one, but also a visual one. In some of the paintings hands appear reaching into the picture in order to enrich, for instance, an eternal snow-landscape with narcissuses and grasses as symbols of spring. In this sense another painting, in which the viewer’s attitude is being reflected through the position of a figure looking into the picture from its edge, is programmatic for the actual artist-couple’s art.

With his sculptures, also Japanese artist Hideki Iinuma (*1975, Nagano) moves about in a border area between nature and culture which is simultaneously marked by contrasts and connections. As a source of inspiration for the artist’s female wooden sculptures serve illustrations of fashion and glossy magazines. Iinuma removes the female bodies from this context marked by artificiality and rapidity of change and revives them within the natural and persistent medium of wood. The women’s vivid expression, newly endowed with individual personality, is further increased by the photographical staging of the sculptures in landscapes and other environments.

For his sculptures Iinuma uses an ancient Japanese method of wood processing, where a figure is being sculpted from one single piece of wood. He combines this traditional technique with his own style of surface treatment, which leaves the traces of working with the Japanese tool and the grain of the wood visible, also beneath the painted layers. The tradition of wooden sculptures plays an important role also with other exponents of contemporary Japanese art such as Katsura Funakoshi and Yoshihiro Suda. But nowhere else the tension between Far Eastern tradition and western modern culture is being made a subject so pointedly as with Hideki Iinuma.


only in german

Alice Stepanek & Steven Maslin
Sideshow: Hideki Iinuma