British artist Stephen Doherty discusses his longstanding relationship with SHOWstudio and the artistic benefits of lockdown in this installment of our Sarabande series.
London-based Stephen Doherty is one of the Sarabande Foundation’s current artists-in-residence and our next interviewee for Mission’s ongoing Artist Series. Doherty is a multi-disciplinary artist who works in graphic media and incorporates drawing, painting, and print into his practice. His work focuses on themes of nature, community, and ritual while simultaneously exploring the relationships found in a shared experience. Here, he discusses his first solo show, Gratitude Blooms, at SHOWstudio, and how he hopes to expand his work beyond just the visual in order to create a multi-sensory artistic experience.
1. Tell us about how you got to where you are now in your career.
I was working as a designer after studying at Central Saint Martins when I met Carrie Scott, the gallery manager at SHOWstudio at the time. I started exhibiting my drawings with them shortly after. That was almost 10 years now, it’s flown!
2. Can you tell us about your first solo show, Gratitude Blooms, exhibited at the SHOWstudio in 2019, and the inspiration behind it?
I was on a residency in Goa just after the monsoon in 2018, everything was so lush and coming into bloom. The ritual of flowers being laid at temples, being used as tokens of gratitude and daily confirmations of faith really stood out. It was so beautiful. I centered my work around that, which later developed into the show.
3. You scented the Gratitude Blooms space with the ‘Black Lotus’ fragrance. What was your thought process behind this immersive artistic choice?
I wanted to make entering the space a fuller experience, more powerful. It’s something I definitely want to explore more, showing my work in a way that’s multi-sensory.
4. How has your time at Sarabande influenced or had an effect on your work today?
Sarabande has helped me become more of a business, advising with contracts and thinking longer-term. Their confidence in me has definitely pushed me to develop my work in ways I previously hadn’t. My time here has been amazing.
5. How do you draw inspiration for your work?
My work is generally just channeling what I’m feeling or observing around me. I’m drawn to things that link us, shared experience, nature. The main factor when I’m starting a new piece is how I want the person viewing it to feel. What elements/imagery can I use to dress the page that will connect them to a particular feeling?
6. Have you ever taken inspiration from the founder himself, Alexander McQueen?
I remember being shown a McQueen collection by my art teacher in high school and being blown away by the hats he made with Philip Treacy. That’s when I realized being creative could be a person’s job. I was so amazed that you could be paid to make beautiful things all day.
7. What is your artistic process like? How long does it take to complete a piece?
I work best when I can tune everything out and just get into the feeling of what I’m doing. The repetitive nature of working on the flowers has become quite meditative, so I lead with that and try to keep my studio a calm, chilled space.
8. Has being in quarantine affected your process?
Everything being on hold has allowed me to focus more with less interruption. Despite the obvious negative reasons for the lockdown, I’ve really enjoyed the slower pace of things.
Photos courtesy of Sarabande Foundation.