Stephen Bush is a painter with a longstanding interest in the tradition of painting and, in particular, the representation of the landscape, which he playfully interrogates in his work to unearth a range of troubling questions, uneasy juxtapositions and unresolvable contradictions embedded in its history.
In recent years, the artist has continued to experiment freely with both the colour and the materiality of paint. In this light, the title of his painting, Ficus Elastica (the scientific name for the rubber plant), not only refers to the foliage that has been rendered in the immediate foreground of the work, but also alludes to the elasticity of the painting as a whole, its ability to change in both the process of its making and in the way it visibly morphs and flexes across its surface. This effect is the result of a process by which the artist pours paint directly onto the canvas to create a large field of viscous pools which ooze, marble and swell in myriad permutations. Amidst the ebb and flow of this glistening, fluid surface the artist identifies formations which suggest potential images, adeptly balancing the tension between chaos and order, the irrational and reason, chance operation and conscious control, abstraction and representation.
In this instance, a rustic stone dwelling, a distant alpine mountain top and a serpentine highway emerge as formal, structural elements which introduce a narrative component, albeit quite an ambiguous and surreal one. Here a seemingly solid man-made stone lodge, forcefully ruptured by the volatility of the surrounding elements and rent in two by the descending mountain streams, threatens to be reabsorbed into the swirling, vertiginous landscape/background from which it appears to have momentarily emerged. With its psychedelic landscape of vibrant, high-keyed greens, yellows and pinks mixing in unforeseen and unstable combinations and its more considered, and controlled figurative components, this painting continues the artist’s ongoing investigation into the mutability and changeability of our relationship to, and conception of, the landscape.