A studio visit: The last stop on my recent art tour of Melbourne…

I walked the stairs to the loft studio, opened the door – off white walls and louvers wooden blinds, the room was uncluttered, a bench mid wall, cuttings on the floor, a low based seat at the end of the room and a canvas sheet covering most of the floor. I could have been anywhere, any country; there was no sense of time, only filtered light into the room.

Moments later Christophe Stibio welcomed me with a handshake set against the stunning backdrop of a panel of his art, containing the French blue colour I personally like with peaked beige shapes amongst furrows of shredded collage. I noticed it was a dual panel painting set in a box frame keeping it minimal and discrete. I was offered a green tea and we talked of his past and current life. His time in Hangzhou kept me enthralled! Christophe was working under a couple of masters Chinese artists, with a commitment to structure and emulate the master’s work. Discipline was the order of the day, with an effort to perfect without emphasis on time. It was a step into another era, and artist’s code. He was not to have individual expression but to follow the master alone. Pen and ink work with an exacting control over a watercolour wash was the focus. Apparently this is the world Christophe chose departing from a French art education to immerse himself in a new culture, language and challenge. I have the feeling this is an artist who needs to get to the inside of a tradition, not merely pass by. In fact he enjoys the process and understands to create it involves a method enhanced by practice, time, routine and commitment. He believes doing well at anything is a process of learning and is the foundation of getting to the place of understanding and then doing. The traditions of Chinese culture play a major role in his approach to his own art making. To discover the background and reasoning of all aspects of art creation only then can one can elect to create. Stibio learnt the craft of paint manufacture, pen control with a technique to challenge the most adept with black and white. For the colour, the discipline of control was a skill learnt under the master. Many lesser western students would have given up, however it is testament to Christophe patience and structure of the process he welcomes. He respects tradition and observes the rules and code.

christophe-stibio

‘Bundeena Coastal Fire Trail’ by Christophe Stibio

The crafts of glue, colour, collage shapes, words and numbers, Chinese paper and adhering the above require an understanding before application. Their use and temperaments are an art in themselves. To learn is the prerequisite to the art being developed.

This ground work in learning was enhanced by understanding the influence of nature, farming, landscape and water. The focus was on the line and the dot, a Chinese fascination for centuries in art. What we see in nature often is representative of layer and or depth of field. What we see on the surface has a beneath and a layering of subject to represent the whole. The collage concept of shredded paper brought words on paper, patterns and control into play.

A further fascination is almost mathematical, to understand the balance of pattern and reverse balance just to challenge the viewer. The state of mind to be exact, accurate and proportioned indicates a consistency of concentration almost unhuman like. For me in normal western behaviour these traits don’t exist and need to be learned as a rule. Undoubtedly the Chinese learning was a major influence on all aspects of Stibio’s life and artwork. These have been life lessons and added to this patient man’s ability to accept and understand another way and culture and living. In fact his art is often a means of expressing emotional release. I talked with him about one particular work charged with emotion from a time past and ex partner. It was influenced by a visit to a landscape memories of joy and enjoyment and as such holding a depth and meaning almost a place of worship. The relationship was shattered sometime later yet he found he was compelled to revisit the place with past memories and found strength and a new perspective to re paint from the area with an enthusiasm. With an emotional upheaval dedicated to an occasion and person, to revisit the time would be too painful for many, yet for Christophe there was a new experience awaiting. In fact he prepared a major work of 6 panels to reinvigorate the place and time. Reference in the painting ‘Where were you when it happened?’ My mind can only explain this as a spiritual journey, a commitment and a need to refresh the memories and make new a reborn life perhaps.

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‘Sunset with Belinda’ by Christophe Stibio

We spoke of French blue in his painting and I was corrected as it was qualified as Australian blue that captured this artist’s hear! The aura of a silhouetted mountain range or ridge during the sunset and as such the atmosphere surrounding creates a glowing blue haze. Inspiration for the colour and love thereof is important whether it is applied as a graduated wash, an even flow and movement of tone or a shape/form developed within the collaged furrows. His use of colour reveals a serenity to me!

Christophe Stibio is an Australian artist with a passion, and with his multi cultured background he enhances our painting environment and brings about a subtlety and love displaying a sensitivity with urban and country landscapes. The appeal of such a style of art on the wall encourages the viewer to question, marvel and yet they may never understand or perceive the learning of technique, preparation and patience involved. Sometimes the subject matter is revealed, hidden, exposed, disguised or for me it is orchestrated by the artist at all times. I wonder if I’m in-tune with the artist’s vision or I can easily wander off to another place in his paintings!

Please ask me to show you some of the secrets of this art which holds many treasures within or find this here on the Cooks Hill Galleries website.

Yours in art,
Mark Widdup

PS. I intend to invite Christophe Stibio to an art dinner for our clients in the new year. To share and understand his visions to life will provide all attendees a lifetime experience not to be forgotten! Keep an eye out for details!

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