Stephen Gibb, oil on panel, 2016
This surreal painting by Canadian artist Stephen Gibb portrays a commentary on consumerism symbolized by the central figure of the all-consuming-mouth monster devouring candy, pastries and chocolate. The central elements contain benign, candy-coloured characters but give way to the austere, menacing and depraved characters that loom on the fringes. The specter of death with it’s grindstone nose, the onion spirit and other unsavory images of decay, disgust and filth frame the sweet interior. The contrast between the desirable and the repulsive adds to the tension of the the concepts at battle.
The title “Dopamine” is in reference to the reward centres of the brain that get flooded with dopamine when stimulated by the powerful feelings of pleasure associated with sugar consumption; however, these excess neurotransmitter levels also take a long-term toll on brain chemistry and can even promote substance dependency.
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Bubblegum Surrealism: Stephen Gibb – Artist Statement, pop surrealism canada, canadian pop surrealism.
(Or, at least a feeble attempt to excuse my behaviour to those present with good taste)
My artwork weaves an eclectic tapestry of cultural and social influences. At one moment it may make a
surreal single-punch-line comment on Canadian pop culture while the next it may construct a complex and playful diorama of surrealism
probing into the outer perimeters of human nature and surrealism.
My work is often categorized as Canadian pop surrealism but I’d begrudgingly prefer to tag it as existential editorial
cartoon realism (Canadian bubblegum surrealism), just because it sounds more intelligent and funny at the same time. The work holds
a certain surreal reverence and faithfulness to reality mimicry but leans away enough to fall in the shadow of the
“uncanny valley*”, the area where the mind is unsettled by what looks real enough but couldn’t possible
be. It is in this realm, theoretically, that the mind’s gamma waves are super-stimulated and brain activity
resembles fireworks. I resolve that this accounts for the broad reactions my work garners from observers,
that ranges from contemptuous dismissal to enthusiastic exuberance. We are all wired differently.
The medium is the method, which has been a faithful deployment of oil painting and traditional Surreal Canadian oil painting
techniques, such as glazing and the occasional dalliance into chiaroscuro. The richness achieved
by layers of thinned oil paint on MDF panels always adds an interesting luminous quality to the final
My direction as of late has been to devote more to composing on the panels rather than in sketches.
I’m intrigued by the more spontaneous and gratifying results of ideas presenting themselves in the process
rather than in the planning, hence the falloff in the recent output of sketches. Often a core image or
concept dictates subliminally as to how the composition manifests itself. Canadian Surrealism
see stephengibb.com for more Canadian pop surrealism.