Pretty Shore, I’m Washed Up, 2016
Blending elements of surrealism, caricature, and Australiana, emerging artist Henry Stentiford presents wonderfully warped visions of modern life. Currently the artist-in-residence at Carlew, Henry is surely one to watch.
Q: Hello Henry! Tell me a bit about yourself.
A: I’m 23 years old, there’s a thriving bird population in my area, and I love making art.
Moderately Chunky Heap Of Stimulating Mass, 2016
Q: What inspires your work? Who are you influenced by?
A: I’m influenced by lots of different artists throughout history, anyone whose dedication shines through regardless of style or time. I recently saw the Robert Hannaford exhibition which was hugely inspiring. My favourite artist of 2016 would be American painter Christian Rex Van Minnen.
Q: How would you describe your style?
A: I feel my style is like a naughty child – it looks nice but there’s always something darker around the corner. I want to create a tension, a certain situation unfolding or having just unfolded and we’re witnessing the aftermath. The subject matter has always been people and relationships, a similar story told throughout but always aims to expand the visual vocabulary of which to tell these stories.
At the core of it all I want to create something that people can interpret in their own way and relate too, a story that evokes a personal memory for someone, a situation they’ve been in before, good or not. I think there’s a lot of value to a confrontation and try to create that, a question forced on the viewer that they ask themselves.
Better The Devil You Are Sort Of Mates With, 2016
Q: Have you always wanted to be an artist? What steered you on the path of becoming an artist?
A: I produced my first exhibition in 2010, and that was it from there. I fell in love with the whole process, I never stopped and said I’d like to be an artist and I never stopped making art. I love being a link in the never ending art chain, that one beautiful activity that people have always done and always will do. Put simply and I imagine this is a pretty shared goal, I want to make the world’s best image, whatever that may be. I think that’s largely unachievable as you’ll always find improvements and if you’re content on a work being your best then you’re a fool but that desire to find out is amazing.
Q: Please describe your artistic and creative process i.e.: how an idea transforms and is put into practice.
A: I’ll usually be thinking about something, a theme or story for a work, then I’ll turn on the music and get to sketching. I try and draw as much as I can of an image without stopping to think about it, trying to get to its core while I’m in the moment. When you stop I feel you start to try and normalise things and try to make sense of it which is when it starts to look flat. The enjoyment of the impulse is when I create my best ideas. You almost don’t want to be looking at the page and just be thinking and letting the hand do its thing. I think that’s why I keep at it, it’s in that nirvana-esque moment when you’re really making art, for me at least. A lot of my process involves relationships of shapes also, such as the angle and line of a right leg compared to the the size of their torso. Shapes tell stories, if your shapes are in perfect harmony, your subject matter becomes more interesting regardless of what it is. Perfect shapes put the importance on the subject matter and then you think about the technique secondly.
Lately, i’ve become obsessed with relationships in an image, that subconscious soothingness of an image that’s achieved through careful relationships – that stuff is the bomb! A tree for example has thicks and thins, light and heavy, hard and soft, you might not think about all these things when you look at it and that’s why it’s so good, you’re just appreciating the tree for its overall beauty and not for its raft of intricate features.
Alas, once I have an overall composition it’s then refined to become a fuller image. Details are looked over and developed but the overall idea I try not to change too much. Once I’m happy with that I usually scan it in and do a colour study on the computer before enlarging the sketch and transferring it to the canvas.
Alone In The Desert, 2016
Q: What do you rate as your greatest artistic achievement to date?
A: It would probably be a painting I did over this year, ‘Moderately Chunky Heap Of Stimulating Mass’. For me, it had a lot of what I want in a painting: craziness and simplicity, use of colour, planned chaos, refined technique and so on. Equally and more importantly, it gave the viewer a lot with people subsequently telling me their interpretations and their responses which is what you want. It became as special to others for their own reasons as it did for me and that’s all you can ask for.
Q: Where do you want your art practice taking you in the next five years?
A: I need to test my art in another circle, a bigger pond than Adelaide. You can have a million shows here in Adelaide, and be a mini-celebrity and still no one has heard your name in Sydney, Melbourne or let alone overseas. A good way to do that would be to do a residency abroad and have exhibitions there where no one knows you and people aren’t obliged by friendship to come to your show, so that’s on the cards. Also just push the technique and subject matter further, learn how to use oil paints and make sculptures, fit more into an image and make something that people want to see twice. The Robert Hannaford exhibition was one of the first shows I had to come back too and that I thought was a great achievement of his and something desirable.
Letters To Leger
Q: Where can people go if they’re interested in seeing more of your work?