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Roland "Chip" Stevens

Roland "Chip" Stevens
Tangled, watercolor on paper, 18" x 24" (image)

Artist, architect, sailor, historian, and traveler, Roland "Chip" Stevens is a man of varied interests, many of which find expression in his watercolors.  He has recently  combined his love or art, history, and sailing, for example, in working with a team of explorers to locate and  identify ships which sank in Lake Ontario and to graphically reconstruct their remains using data and images from a remotely controlled, submerged vehicle.   Similarly, Stevens' watercolors often find their subject in the sea or in coastal villages near the water.  The unusual perspective of his painting "Outward Bound" places the viewer mid-deck of a schooner looking outward at the seemingly limitless expanse of ocean.

Stevens' paintings of coastal towns are, however, as much about the life of people in small rural communities as they are about the sea itself.  And in his rural depictions, whether inland or coastal, the artist avoids the quaint or picturesque. His focus is rather upon the isolation and difficulty of life in remote places.  His images convey a sense of the rundown and ramshackle, of the clutter and dilapidation, which is, at the same time, a testimony to the age and persistence of this way of life. As if to underline his theme, his palette avoids a wide range of colors, with tonalities of earth colors like brown and umber predominating.  Where people populate his scenes, they usually exhibit the strenuous work and the shared effort which makes life possible under such conditions.

Roland "Chip" Stevens
English Fishing Village, watercolor on paper, 17" x 23" (image)

The most obvious technical characteristic of Stevens' work is its sparseness of means.  We normally apply the terms "negative space" and "positive space" to three-dimensional art, but the terms work well in describing this artist's work.  With sections of the paper virtually unpainted,  Stevens' paintings call attention to their own efficiency, communicating the most visual information with the least means.  But the negative space in this artist's paintings is anything but minimalism for its own sake.  It is a working principle.  Maintaining, as stated, a close range of color and value, Stevens uses the "negative" or unpainted portions of the paper to define form, to establish the direction and intensity of the light, and to establish spatial relationships among the pictorial planes.  We must also feel that this spare method is one most appropriate for depicting a world lacking in excess or extravagance, where true value and meaning lay just below the seeming drabness of a quotidian existence.

Roland "Chip" Stevens
Phlegmatic Entertainment, watercolor on paper, 20" x 30" (image)

Roland "Chip" Stevens
Kitchen Clutter, watercolor on paper, 19.5" x 29.5" (image)

Roland "Chip" Stevens
Outward Bound, watercolor on paper, 13" x 19"

Roland "Chip" Stevens
Quiet Morning, watercolor on paper, 18" x 24"


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