Steph Houstein (born Hobart 1961) is an emerging artist living and working on her print practice in Hobart.
In 1983 Steph began working as a graphic designer and art director within the design, publishing and advertising industries both in Sydney and Milan, Italy. In 2002 Steph joined the Warringah Printmakers Studio in Sydney primarily exploring the media of collagraphs and linocut.
Returning to Hobart in 2006 Steph commenced her studies with The University of Tasmania School of Art and graduated in 2012 with a Masters of Fine Art and Design (MFAD) majoring in printmaking.
Steph has been selling and exhibiting her work since 2010 through the Henry Jones Art Hotel and PG Printmakers Gallery, Fitzroy, Melbourne.
This series depicts an imagined and intricate internal space, the connectivity of what binds our bodies together in dark and quiet complexity. Although we are all aware of our bodies’ internal mechanisms we can be alarmed at perceived changes in its workings. I am sure that we have all experienced fearful sleeplessness due to what may or may not be happening just below the skins surface.
Working with abstracted skeletal forms embodies the notion of Everyman. Whatever our standing, wealth, education, political or religious beliefs, we share the iconic imagery of death – the skull. I would like to invite the observer to reflect on, and ultimately consider our shared mortality. It is what we have in common.
Echoes of Place
Artists are influenced by the many things that can assault the senses; a melody, a much-loved piece of writing, the aroma of a favourite food, a memorable landscape. All these things can evoke a creative response.
Echoes of place depict a fondness for the Bay of Fires and it’s coastal landscape. The colour palette is a reflection of the intense light on clear waters and the fabulous orange lichen covering the foreshore rocks.
I have an ongoing interest in the conceptual exploration of memento mori, a Latin phrase that may be translated as ‘remember that you are mortal’. For my MFAD I developed a body of work titled Bonescapes, each work originating with an abstraction of skeletal form. With the application of additional layering, the transience and impermanence of life is explored through the energetic gestural movement of line and colour.
My current practice has evolved into what could be best described as ‘Hybrid Printmaking’, a combination of mixed media and silkscreened works on paper. Over the last four years I have been experimenting with these processes incorporating the use of wood.
The TCotA (Tasmanian College of the Arts) Printmaking Department was interested in the development of my emerging art practice and in 2015 I was invited to participate in their AiR (Artist in Residence) program. This residency gave me the opportunity to further my experimentation with non-toxic print process and with the progression of my image making.
Over the five months that I was engaged with the AiR program, I had the luxury of time and facilities to develop new bodies of work alongside progression of the original Bonescapeseries: Wabi-Sabi Bones, Liminal Lineage and Osteology.
I have never outwardly used my art practice as an expression of my disability or the way I address my MS on a daily basis. However works and imagery like Wabi-Sabi Bones and the very nature of the process, imagery and naming, do refer to my awareness of physical decline and limitations. Wabi-Sabi is a Japanese aesthetic, which loosely means ’embracing the imperfect’. This sums up the way I now have to approach my practice and my daily life.
I prefer my imagery not to be didactic but let the viewer come to their own conclusions.
Steph Houstein 2016
The Polka Dot Series
In 2010 along with the Bonescape series, another body of work was developed during my MFAD exploring the death rituals of different cultures.
The Polka Dot Series evolved over time using polka dots as a visual signature and metaphor of self. Contemporary iconography of the polka dot collectively signifies both a graphic and comic motif. In contrast I have used the polka dot visual as a symbol for the artificial, a mechanical reproduction to act as a juxtaposition with the organic nature of the skull imagery.
I wanted the use of polka dots to emphasise and express a stark contrast to the more sombre aspects associated with death. And I’d like the irreverent titles to imbue a certain whimsy.
Steph Houstein 2018