STEPHEN RALPH


I was reading a book on poetry a few years ago and the author was saying that, when someone is reading a poem, they should feel that they are getting into a stable boat with a reliable person at the oars to take them on their journey. I see the use of familiar forms in my constructions as the stable boat and the way they are put together as the journey.    Stephen Ralph
 

Stephen Ralph is something of a journeyman in his approach to sculptural practice. Blending working worlds from the trades, art and design history, Ralph’s rich field of references that drive his repertoire as a maker range from the lumpen gravitas of the scholar’s rock perched on a hardwood base of exquisite craftsmanship through to his cast and turned totemic composites that draw upon the surrealist exquisite corpse and, most recently, his marble and lead anatomies that resonate as votive offerings for rebuilding the self.

Ceramic, marble, terrazzo and cement are among the materials of choice, accompanied by gilding and other patinate qualities. The combined effect is an eclectic appreciation of ornamental and modernist aesthetics, inspired by the work of Antoni Gaudi, “the way he took iconography, styles, technique, materials and technology from everywhere from the far east to ancient Greece and created these beautiful buildings that resonate with life yet also have a timeless quality. I try to work in a similarly intuitive way.”

In more recent times, Ralph has focussed his analogue sculptural practice on working with materials of even greater permanence and monumentality. Since 2018, he has been hand-carving marble, a medium prized by sculptors for its softness and resistance to shattering. With its low index of refraction of calcite, light can penetrate several millimetres into the stone before scattering out, enhancing the lifelike quality of representations of the human body.

Working from miniature studies created in clay and then upscaled in 1:1 plaster maquettes cast from life before being painstakingly carved as final works, these statues continue the neoclassical tradition to also channel Ovid’s Metamorphoses in a spirit of transformation and poetry.

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Stephen Ralph (b. 1966, Perth; l. Sydney) graduated in sculpture from the National Art School, Sydney, in 1991. He has been a regular exhibitor at artist-run initiatives in Sydney and Melbourne over twenty years. In 1998, he co-founded Stone Villa Inc, a prominent artist collective and studio complex in Sydney.

Ralph has presented regular solo exhibitions at The Commercial since 2013. Group exhibitions include, Installation Contemporary, curated by Glenn Barkley and The Curator's Department, Sydney Contemporary, Carriageworks (2015); 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.

 

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