A few weeks ago I highlighted the quiet abstracts of Agnes Martin, whose contemplative minimalist paintings provide a beautiful antidote to a world in which wall-to-wall click bait tempts us with the ever-escalating promises of something shocking, where women are told they must lean in to get ahead, and where a blustering self-impressed blowhard is the Republican nominee for the presidency. Last week I stumbled on the work of the British painter Arturo di Stefano, whose works are representational, not abstract, but which also invite us into quiet contemplation.
A person who shouts, metaphorically and literally, places everything on the outside. (Is there an inside to Trump? Or is there no there there?) A contemplative urges us to see and feel from the inside out. Di Stefano's works are clear depictions of everyday life, of people and buildings, sometimes even based on photographs, but they are not photographic; they are tactile and infused with meaning. Might there be a kinship with painters such as Morandi and York?
I am an introvert and rejoice when quietness gets its due, receiving, let's say, three somewhat-modest cheers. Here's a really nice passage from an article on di Stefano by Andrew Lambirth published in the Spectator in 2014:
Di Stefano quotes Kitaj quoting Emily Dickinson: ‘Tell it slant’, as a way of revealing a subject to us. He wants people to look again at something they might otherwise take for granted. His paintings are interpretations of what he sees, not some quasi-photographic record of reality, and encapsulate the emotions he feels. So many intangibles then come into play: thoughts, the artist’s personality and personal history, but these are not openly displayed. In some ways, Di Stefano is more English than the English — valuing reserve, tact, discretion. ‘I’m all for decorum, I don’t like clamour. Paintings that shout quickly lose their potency. I remember Ken Kiff when he was my tutor at the Royal College saying, “I just want to whisper something and then go.” It’s the whisper that you’ve got to listen for. People like him are so modest that they are easily drowned out.