Home A la Une Art : The magic of Gary Stephens and the ‘everyday’

Art : The magic of Gary Stephens and the ‘everyday’

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Art : The magic of Gary Stephens and the ‘everyday’

We all have hair and although it may be quite different from head to head, we can relate to it in pretty much the same way. This being said, hair is such an important part of who we are as individuals – it communicates a plethora of messages about exactly who and what we are; gender, age, religion, ethnicity, culture, wealth, rank and even marital status. It has the power to dictate how others should treat us and forms an essential, ritualistic part of our everyday lives.

No one understands this better than Gary Stephens. A US born artist, he first visited South Africa four years ago. Struck by the unique way in which South Africans dress he started a project that saw him move to the country and never look back. I sat down with him to speak about his work, only to learn an important life lesson about the beauty we miss in the ‘everyday’.

“When I arrived in Cape Town I found a very developed and creative sense of style. Having lived in Italy for ten years I developed an eye for fashion and thus greatly appreciated the care that people put in to their look in South Africa. In Europe fashion is more brand related, it’s all about expensive designers, but here people manage to look ‘sharp’ without affording expensive brand names”.

It was the effort that they put in to their hair care that greatly intrigued Stephens. Inspired by people standing in grocery lines, crowds at soccer games and people crossing the streets he began a series of drawings that depicted their braided hairstyles in great detail.

 Lagos Braids with Earring and Glasses, 175cm x 130, charcoal on folded paper and Soweto Braid Spiral, 133 x 133, charcoal on folded paper with string
Lagos Braids with Earring and Glasses, 175cm x 130, charcoal on folded paper and Soweto Braid Spiral, 133 x 133, charcoal on folded paper with string

He views his work as a process of documenting and paying homage and although it is not necessarily about drawing conclusions he does agree that how a person wears his or her hair in Africa is very important and immediately gives an impression of that person’s identity. But more than that Stephens’ intention is to try to elevate the everyday, making it monumental by painstakingly paying attention to detail and pattern in his art.

When one looks at his work his vision definitely takes shape. Staring into each intricately detailed, interwoven strand of hair opens up a strange and mysterious new world that, at the same time, is somewhat familiar, oddly normal and breathtakingly beautiful.

Shiny Braid Bun, 133 x 133cm, charcoal on folded paper and Shimmering Braids with Knot, 195 x 150, charcoal on paper with string
Shiny Braid Bun, 133 x 133cm, charcoal on folded paper and Shimmering Braids with Knot, 195 x 150, charcoal on paper with string

Stephens maintains that part of an artist’s role is to see beauty, reflect it back to society and raise attention around it. Through his work he hopes to help people experience the beauty they stopped noticing or previously overlooked and allow them to appreciate what they have missed because it is so ‘everyday’

His message is loud and clear; everyday events and what we regard as “normal” are often extraordinary if one just takes a little time to have a closer look.

Nandipha, 150x113cm, charcoal on paper with string and Patience,133 x133cm, charcoal on folded paper
Nandipha, 150 x113cm, charcoal on paper with string and Patience,133 x 133cm, charcoal on folded paper

We are constantly surrounded by miracles, but often fail to see them because they exist in ordinary things and daily occurrences. But imagine, if like Gary Stephens, we were all inspired by the ‘common’ things around us? Imagine if we took a little time and had the perspective to find beauty in the supposedly mundane? Then wouldn’t everything be ‘sharp’?

Gary Stephens, the man behind the magic!
Gary Stephens, the man behind the magic!

Sometimes conspicuous beauty can become futile, sometimes inconspicuous beauty can take our breath away, sometimes we can overlook beautiful things because we become used to them or because we don’t ever stop to smell the roses. Sometimes we need to stop, take a moment and let the beauty around us enfold in front of us. And sometimes we need to meet people like Gary Stephens to awaken us to all that is beautiful.

 

Source : Yswara

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