Extract from Matter of Spirit

The book comprises an in depth analysis of Stevie's work.

From the chapter ‘Visual Language’  ‘These various elements, like words, although familiar, change in meaning and tone when rearranged in different orders or within different contexts. As artistic language develops and diversifies, new ideas normally discovered through periods of experimental drawing, gradually integrate with more familiar elements. In turn, through the practice of constant refinement, certain aspects retire, often making surprising periodic appearances; like a celebrity, who only needs to appear in order to create an impact. The necessity for action is almost superfluous.

Problems of making art are solved sometimes instantly through the attempted action of making art, although indirectly. As if through barking around the wrong tree in every direction, suddenly, inevitably, the right tree enters the line of vision. The setting of tasks provides a healthy structure within which to promote a sense of play, and thereby create the kind of environment where things appear to take on properties of transformation independently; that is almost without any conscious personal input. This extraordinary sensation is described eloquently in ‘Zen Keys’  ‘True creativity is only possible when the mind is empty and totally absorbed in the task at hand. Our intuitive wisdom and joy are brought into play in this kind of creativity, which is only possible when one is freed from the weight of self-consciousness. In Zen everything is in the doing, not in the contemplating. No amount of theory can ever be a substitute for experience.’[Hanh]

When playing with ideas and the physical matter of the materials, one can achieve true spontaneity; like a child at play in water or sand, or fishes , swimming in the deep ocean, intrinsically a part of everywhere they touch. In this way, the painting or drawing, which is no more or less than an exact recording of events, enables engagement and response, thereby, intuitive play itself becomes the main event, the overall or underlying message of the work. This is absolutely and wholeheartedly what is sought.



Catalogue essay Dr Jacques Rangasamy


Stevie Cohen’s oeuvre is an intense visual inquiry, not into the world of matter, but of its underlining symbolic energies. However the result is not illustrative of symbols, as tarot cards exemplify, for Cohen’s vision does not translate into, nor uses elements of concrete reality, still less an abstract subject matter.  Rather it is the tension between the world of matter and its underlining forces and patterns of meanings that has come to preoccupy her and win her creative devotion.

Cohen’s work is responsive to the many aesthetic scruples that the world of matter instils in those who live a creative existence. For Cohen, its many seduction entrap the human spirit into states of creative stagnation, of subordination to crippling ideals, and rob it of its freedom to roam, even if aimlessly. Significantly, the design framework provided by the edges of her paintings and drawings are not the primary compositional obligation for Cohen as it is for many abstract and figurative artists. She trusts the pencil and brush to evolve both marks and their defining structures. Nevertheless, Cohen’s visual reflection is marked by restraint. The excitement that relationships of form and colour in pictorial conventions past and present produce remains a matter of perpetual curiosity, and percolates into her own creativity only selectively. She explores rather than explains, questions rather than solves, exposes rather than resolves. Her gestural approach to creating images and meanings is perhaps the immediate pathway into her work available to us. It enables us to trace her steps, pause at her hesitancies and fascinations, wonder at accidents and curiosities, but most essentially, be surprised. Cohen has the gift of infusing richness in her shapes and colour. But the richness serves the purpose of her dialogue with her viewer, and not developed exploitatively for the sake of it. Another aesthetic scruple.

The intellectual debt incurred through her vast reading and questioning of other artists’ work is undeniable, but her influences are carefully measured. Tapies remains a favourite frame of reference because of shared values and of spiritual affinities. But Cohen’s hallmark remains her originality and truth to herself and her inner vision.



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