Exhibition | Iona Stern, ‘A Place in Time’
Through hidden coves to enchanted cottage gardens, abstract landscapes sing with colour in this captivating new exhibition of prints and paintings
British painter and printmaker Iona Stern describes her work as an ‘expressive response to place, object or memory’. And in this, her first solo exhibition at For Arts Sake, her colour-soaked abstract landscapes take us on a journey through Cornish bays, via purple fields of heather to the dying days of summer and into the clear eastern light of the Yorkshire Moors.
‘A Place in Time’, says Iona, is “a collection of memories… My work is a visual diary – whether it’s a place visited or an exhibition seen. I look for the abstract, the ‘big picture’, rather than the incidental”.
“I start with a colour palette. Colours need to sing together – to fire off one another. If I’m not happy with the colours, I’m not happy with the work,” says Iona, who was raised in Kent and Warwickshire and now lives and works from her home studio in Haven Green, Ealing.
A former advertising creative, Iona worked as a creative director on campaigns for high profile companies including Kellogg’s, Halifax, Rover and more. During the 1990s she formed her own marketing firm with a former colleague, counting among her clients the likes of the New York Stock Exchange, HSBC, Monarch Airlines and Warner holidays. In 2011, she left to pursue her own art career, having previously studied for a degree in Art & Design at Canterbury College of Art.
“Back in the 80s, they used to say that advertising is the most fun you can have with your clothes on,” she laughs. “It may not always have been like that, but I have some very good memories of working with some highly impressive people, winning creative awards and producing highly impactful campaigns. After more than 30 years creating work for clients, I decided to follow my own creative path and become a full-time artist.”
She now works from a converted stable-turned-garage space in the garden of her home. “When we moved in, the old building – originally an old stable with a hayloft – was on the point of collapse with just some 1940s asbestos holding up the walls. We were given permission to rebuild [and] since taking the step to becoming a full-time artist my studio space has crept from working in the hayloft to taking over the garage floor for screenprinting.
“I paint in the eves and tend to put my paintings on the wall or floor. The interior walls are painted a muted earth colour and it’s a bit like working in a treehouse as there is a long window on one side with a hornbeam tree , complete with bird’s nest, just outside. I’m surrounded by oil and acrylic paint, my family’s old Heal’s dining table, a plan chest for my printing papers and storage, as well as old canvases and the odd suitcase and Christmas decoration.
“Downstairs is my screenprinting table, sink and small darkroom under the stairs. It’s not the largest or tidiest studio, but it suits me perfectly.”
Iona cites artists Howard Hodgkin, Peter Lanyon and Roger Hilton among her inspirations. She says: “They create a memory rather than an actual place. Over time I’ve moved away from representational works to recreating an energy, mood or atmosphere. Similarly, the American Abstract Expressionists‘ landscape-inspired works were concerned with mark-making, gestural brushstrokes and the impression of spontaneity.”
Among the works on show are ‘Heat of the Day’ (above), an acrylic piece inspired by the memory of a week spent painting in Olhao, Portugal: “We took the boat across to a little, unspoilt island. I sat in the shade , looking across the sands to a line of brightly coloured beach shacks sizzling in the heat.”
‘End of Summer’ (below), meanwhile, is an oil on canvas work “loosely based on time spent in St Ives. I love the British seaside, in and out of season. ‘End of Summer’ captures that time when the tourists have departed and the sun is in a lower position”.
Oil painting ‘Enchanted’ (below) is “inspired by our cottage garden in the Cotswolds. When there, we work flat-out bringing some order back. At the close of day, we stand back and are enchanted by the view”.
Of the oil ‘Edge of the Moor’ (pictured, top), Iona explains: “Until recently, my aunt lived on the northern edge of the North York Moors. The views were spectacular with farmhouses nestling in the shadows of the moors. The clear atmosphere and eastern light gave wonderful contrasts.”
Iona Stern, ‘A Place in Time’, January 10 – 27, ‘(Meet the Artist, Saturday 19 January, 1-5pm), free entry, 45 Bond Street, Ealing, W5 5AS, Mon-Fri (Wednesdays closed), 10am-5.30pm, Sat 10am-6pm, Sun 12-5pm.