'I'm effectively playing Dungeons & Dragons with myself': Inside this artist's painted worlds
In his new digs in the U.K., Stephen Appleby-Barr shows us his magical sculptures and paintings
Stephen Appleby-Barr's paintings have always been magical. From cats in full regalia to David Suzuki surveying a winter landscape, snowshoes in hand, the artist makes people into heroes. Or royals. Or fairytale characters. Something powerful, anyway.
Appleby-Barr is from Toronto, where he's been celebrated for his work. He formed part of Team Macho, the wildling group of artists (Appleby-Barr, Lauchie Reid and Christopher Buchan) who shared a studio and produced all manner of strange and sometimes psychedelic art. More recently, his solo work has featured ennobled portraits full of armour and horses and little figures that look like they're made out of paper or fragile ceramic, poised delicately on the spindliest of legs.
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In this video made by filmmaker James Cooper, Appleby-Barr lets you in on how important those little figures have come to be in his work. As he explains it, in moving from Toronto to his current home in London (the U.K. one) with a rural stop in between, he came to be more and more involved with using his small sculptures to compose his paintings.
He says, "I'm effectively playing Dungeons and Dragons with myself. I've got to have the set pieces and I've got to have the characters. And they have character sheets and they have narratives and there is a setting and there's this and then that and it changes."
"I'm just playing a really long ongoing game of storytelling, which I've always done with the work."
Now that he also has London's National Gallery only a short ride away from his front door, he's as inspired as ever — and you can see the central role his sculptures play in the paintings he's making today.
Follow Stephen Appleby-Barr here.