Christopher Stacey attended Chelsea School of Art, alongside Mariko Mori and Chris Ofili. There began his fascination with the raw, violent, muddy nature the world around him and sought means of showing its beauty. He wanted to make beautiful things, and as the YBA movement established itself, he realised he would have to wait. Later, Christopher settled on a pastoral theme, toying with a romantic, folk aesthetic and made a series of paintings English Electric. These paintings sought to gently deconstruct the English landscape and our relationship with it. He sought to uncover the sublime, brooding earth and playfully reconstruct it on canvas. These works sold immediately and widely and are held privately in the United Kingdom, United States and New Zealand. After a break, Christopher finally returned to the studio in 2013 completing Girls, a series that introduced the recurring themes with which the artist’s practice now engages. This recent work shows, via the luminosity of sex, skin and paint, a deeper, higher, romantic ideal of portraiture.
Christopher studied painting at Chelsea School of Art, with a period in New Zealand as Artist in Residence at Otago University, exhibiting widely. On his return to London he began working as an assistant to Gilbert & George, leading ultimately to working for Jay Jopling and Charles Saatchi, providing specialist installation services at the height of the ‘Brit Art’ period. Separately and quietly Stacey made what he intended to be beautiful paintings (the English Electric series) all of which were sold to private collections. After a hiatus in business and travelling, Stacey returned to the UK to make new work. Christopher has had a recent solo show at 10 Green Street, Cambridge and has a forthcoming exhibition with Kunsthaus, London.
What is it about the Young Masters project that you are most interested in?
The term Young Master conjures of course, painters of skill, with a higher, more noble, perhaps transcendental ideal. There has to be a reason to paint, other than to record. Something that perhaps is not found in a photograph, or even by looking alone. Perhaps it is to try to understand, to seek patterns or intelligence in flesh, blood, trees, mountains. What makes flesh human, trees seem wise and mountains godlike.
Can you explain to us what your work is about?
I am interested in what it is to be human. In particular, what it is to be a woman. I am interested in beauty, not an idealized, received social idea of beauty, but the strange, fragile violence of living in a body. I want not only to paint flesh, I want to paint what is under the flesh. The bones, blood of course, but the mind and the desire, too. I see the subjects all as heroes, as overcome the awkward, painful reality of what it is to be alive, what might be termed beauty. I try to avoid deconstructing it, reducing it to meat. I want my paintings to be heroes. Which artist/s are you most inspired by? Right now, I adore John Singer Sargent, who was criticized for superficiality but had such lyricism, liquidity and sexuality in his work. Of course, Jenny Saville. Alex Kanevsky, and I love Cy Twombly. I am hugely influenced by Helmut Newton and Alexander McQueen, who wonderfully portray women as powerful, mindful human beings.
Can you tell us something about your background?
I studied at Chelsea and spent many years working for Charles Saatchi, Gilbert and George and others. I then opened a business in Cambridge, moved to Italy where as I sat outside the bars of Milan, began a fascination with fashion and subsequently, fashion photography. There is a distinct beauty there, classic of course, but somehow subverted absolutely original and powerful, dark somehow. I returned to England and began to paint again.
What inspired you to become an artist?
I can’t help it. It’s how I see, the way in which I look at the world. I see so much that is extraordinary in the ordinary, the everyday.
If you weren’t an artist what would you be?
I like to think I could still be a pop star in France.
What is your greatest achievement as an artist to date?
I think the greatest achievements are personal ones, any victories are for others to judge.
What are your plans for the future?
To grow a large family and a tall garden.