‘I’m very conscious of a kind of disjuncture in your paintings. It’s as though ordinary reality had slipped a bit, like a mask, and you’re aware of something that wasn’t there before. There’s a nice French word, ‘décalage’, which means something like a ‘shift’. There’s what one might call a shift or a gap in the reality your paintings present, and their whole impact, I think, is contained in that gap. And looking at your work, with all its detailed precision, I started thinking, well, what is real?’
This question is posed by Michael Peppiatt in the catalogue. Di Stefano answers: ‘Do any of us see the same thing? I don’t think we do.’
Di Stefano’s paintings don’t hang innocuously on the wall. They disturb. As the artist says, ‘That’s what paintings are. They are there to shock you, to make you realise things that you see all the time without seeing them, to make you see again – more intensely … That’s what painters do, if they have any value at all.’
Arturo Di Stefano’s new body of work is entitled Fat over lean, a principle in oil painting of applying paint with a higher oil to pigment ratio (fat) over paint with a lower oil to pigment ratio (lean). Included in the recent paintings are old subjects revisited, for example, Coram's Fields, and the artists Beckmann, Braque and Kitaj. Other paintings include places of art historical significance, such as Santa Croce in Florence where Giotto's frescoes in the Bardi and Peruzzi Chapels show scenes from the life of St Francis and St John the Evangelist.
These paintings develop the themes of Di Stefano's previous Purdy Hicks exhibition Lasting (2010)– memory, transience, the interplay of words and imagery through the agency of coloured matter, which, for him, confirms the primacy of painting as a means of interpreting the world.
A fully-illustrated catalogue, with the transcript of a conversation between Michael Peppiatt and the artist, is available.