Ken Urban 2015, Contemporary Art Tasmania, Hobart

  • Amber Koroluk-Stephenson : Paradise Dreaming, 2015, mixed mediaParadise Dreaming 2015, Ken Urban install shot, mixed media, dimensions variable
  • Amber Koroluk-Stephenson : Paradise Dreaming (detail), 2015, oil on canvasParadise Dreaming (detail) 2015, oil on canvas, 152 x 304cm (diptych: panels 152 x 152cm)
  • Amber Koroluk-Stephenson : Paradise Dreaming, 2015, mixed mediaParadise Dreaming 2015, Ken Urban install shot, mixed media, dimensions variable

Text for Ken Urban 2015, Contemporary Art Tasmania, Hobart.

Written by Geoff Parr

In 2014 at the Bett Gallery, Amber Koroluk-Stephenson showed a coherent group of Tasmanian painting depicting suburban spaces that were located between the distant rolling hills and an equally distant CBD skyline. That body of paintings marked the artist as an aspiring urban storyteller and virtually chose Amber for an early-career artist exhibition entitled Ken Urban.

In the setting of each painting multiple clues are used to construct an identity of the conscientious homemaker. The incorporation of carefully detailed home and garden layouts, manicured attention to plants, lawns, pathways, lawns and edges and associated accoutrements formed portraits of people in places. It was the very continuity of these suburban fables, which introduces a surrealist element to the artworks that not even the homeowners of Hobart’s iconic Arthur Circus would be able to match.

The artist chose to push this ‘beyond reality’ element a little further with foreboding titles given to some of the works and she gives this quality a further nudge when she writes about ‘social constructs creating stereotypes’. There is coherence here between the artist’s concept and her choice of content. Together they compose the narrative.

Amber Koroluk-Stephenson is a Tasmanian artist making paintings about social factors in greater suburbia. Given the considerable influence upon Tasmanian artists of the always close-at-hand natural countryside, this ‘in my street’ series re-presents subject matter common to most town folk.

Then a late visit to the artist’s studio provides new insights into the preparation for a large canvas, which the artist intends to complete for the Ken Urban exhibition only a few weeks hence. Immediately evident was the extensive preparatory work, the monochrome sketches and the full-colour sketches and the 3-D models all testing the properties of the content and composition for this major work, presently at the underpainting stage.

As a measure of the considerable care that Amber puts into the preparation of her artworks, the studio visit was most impressive. Meticulous preparation also explains the continuity of storytelling so apparent in Amber’s practice. Even at the preparatory stage this new project retains that same ‘beyond reality’ elements evident in the earlier artworks, only now the symbols of suburbia will be carefully laid out upon a magic carpet and so mobilised are destined to visit their country counterparts: the symbols of Australia’s bushland.