Stephen Ralph makes abstract and figurative sculpture. Elaborations upon a basic totemic structure of stacked form, his works appear both ancient and somewhat punk. Early sculptures included minimal, Brancusi-like, turned-wood towers however, in recent years, he has forgone working with a lathe and moved into the more varied and organic processes of cast concrete (including terrazzo), hand-carved hardwood and hand-modelled clay, sometimes embellished in areas with 24 carat gold leaf. Disparate forms, materials and textures are combined in an exquisite corpse-like manner. His concrete works have a definite pagan anthropomorphic appearance, reminiscent of dancing maenads. His 2014 Scholar’s Rocks series presents strong binary contrasts of a loosely modelled abstract ceramic figure sitting on a formal, decorative base. The highly refined bases, which Ralph sensitively carves from old chunks of discarded Australian hardwood, in the register of traditional Chinese furniture, accommodate the irregularities of the alien organic forms they support. Pronounced exchanges between cultures of form, materiality and folk metaphysics underpin Ralph’s work.
Ralph (b. 1966, Perth) graduated in sculpture from the National Art School in 1991. In 1998, he co-founded Stone Villa Inc, a prominent artist collective and studio complex in Sydney which actively exhibits and hosts an artist residency program and the annual Vortex Sculpture Prize.
His first solo exhibition at The Commercial Gallery, South Wind, was in August 2013. Prior to this, he has had regular solo exhibitions at artist-run initiatives in Sydney and Melbourne over twenty years, including Austral Avenue, Melbourne (2006), Front Room, Sydney (2003), Elastic, Sydney (2001), Published Art, Sydney (2001), CBD, Sydney (1998), 151 Regent Street, Sydney (1996, 1997, 1998), Selenium, Sydney (1995). He exhibited in the Artbox at Sherman Galleries, Sydney in 1995.
Group exhibitions include, Assembly - Contemporary Ceramics, curated by Kay Abude at Margaret Lawrence Gallery, Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne (2014); Figure and Ground, Utopian Slumps, Melbourne, curated by Melissa Loughnan and Jane O’Neill (nee Gallagher) (2012); 20/20, curated by Robert Lake at Damien Minton Gallery, Sydney, (2011); City Mambo, at Shin Leh Yuan Art Space, Taipei (2006); Rough Trade (Jay Balbi, Adam Cullen, Callum Morton, Stephen Ralph, Tony Schwensen, Rodney Spooner), curated by Jane Gallagher at Plimsoll Gallery, Hobart (1998).
Stephen Ralph’s work is in the collection of Artbank, Sydney.