Stephen G Bird is a visual storyteller; he tells stories through the pictures he makes. He draws from life and from landscape, but many of his works are narrative in nature.
In his paintings a mermaid rides her Lambretta through the docklands; Salome dances in a downtown bar; archangels walk the city streets and Jonah meets Leviathan in the Thames. In many of his works there are references to the early saints and parables, Classical myths and legends – many set in pre-boom London including Deptford pubs, rooms in Lambeth, red pillar boxes, Routemaster buses, bicycles and scooters. Other paintings are set in the rugged coastline of north Devon, or a Scottish island – places Stephen returns to every year.
They are not illustrations as such, though some of the pictures relate more clearly than others to a familiar narrative. Others invite viewers to invent their own story in response to the image.
Stephen G Bird studied fine art at Chelsea College of Art and then Goldsmiths in London from the mid-1970s to the early 80s. When Stephen lived in London he returned again and again to the British Museum, drawing Classical and Oriental sculptures. He also spent many hours in the Drawing and Print Room making close studies of Renaissance master prints and drawings. He continues to draw every day and these daily studies into the language of drawing have formed the bedrock of his narrative pictures.
For most of his working life he has taught Art and History of Art, but alongside his teaching he drew and painted daily. Consequently he has a formidable collection of sketchbooks, drawings, paintings and prints though he has chosen to exhibit only latterly, with a number of one-man shows over the last few years. In 2017 he retired from the teaching profession, to dedicate all his time to his own work.
Over the last two decades his painting has developed a singular, evocative style based on layers of colour, strong line drawing, pattern and closely woven composition. The works are full of wit as well as darker undercurrents.
In 2005 Stephen G Bird was awarded a Scholarship with the Farmington Institute, Oxford to explore the iconography of the Last Judgement which culminated in the creation of a large-scale polyptych. In 2013 he was awarded a second Farmington Scholarship to create a series of paintings based on stories from the Book of Genesis
Drawing is at the very heart of his work. A world of familiar, knowable, homely objects is clearly delineated - a rug by the fire, a bath, teapot, cat, table, chair. The images often tell of a life lived through domestic ritual, the sacrament of the everyday - genre painting of a kind.
Yet many narratives break through these domestic themes lending resonance to the mundane.
References in the work to Giotto and Uccello, as well as many other medieval and early Renaissance artists, are evident. The visionary nature of the images also shows the influence of William Blake and Samuel Palmer and 20th century British narrative painters such as Stanley Spencer and David Jones.
Above all his works express a preoccupation with the mechanics of drawing and painting and the new worlds that can be created simply through putting marks down on paper, board or canvas.