Richard Stone’s work is all about contradictions – in media, in ideas, and in artistic intentions. Through both painting and sculpture he explores two conflicting forces that create a continual tension in the field of art: the accumulation and endurance of cultural heritage, versus the need for new creation and artistic progress.
Stone takes antique artefacts as a point of focus, using old paintings and sculptures as both a reference and as the physical support for his own works. His paintings are often antique landscapes that have been sanded down till little remains of the scene they once represented. He then repaints their surfaces, seeking to recreate the lost image but finding only a misty, indeterminate scene. It is an approach that touches on both the Turneresque tradition in English landscape painting, and at the same time De Kooning’s constantly re-worked surfaces that seem to exist in a continual state of becoming.
Similarly with his sculptures, Stone will take an antique bronze figure and subject its well-defined form to the fluidity of wax, in a way that hides its pertinent features and undermines both the image and the nature of the medium. It is a subtle subversion of sculpture’s archetypal solidity, whilst also being an attempt to find a new route to the emotional complexity that sculptural traditions have so long explored. Other works create in bronze the landscape motifs that are so elusive in his paintings, resulting in rocky crags reminiscent of Caspar David Friedrich’s romantic heights but turned solid, weighty and hard. Or the branch of a magnolia: an enduring and ancient plant, older even than the bee, but in Stone’s bronze rendering still fragile and temporary, its metal petals falling to the gallery floor.
This process of forging new territory, only to then revisit what has been left behind, informs where Stone positions his viewer: in an imagined place, as if journeying to an unknown destination, looking back to a distant shore and no longer able to clearly discern its form. The motifs of one medium take shape in another; the reliability of past definitions, both in image and objects, becomes unreliable; the ideas and ideals of the past remain, but once left behind they can never be the same again.