Stephen Appleby-Barr at Nicholas Metivier Gallery

The Window to Other Worlds

Stephen Appleby-Barr is an artist, traveller, and creator of worlds. Above the Clouds, Below the Sky, currently being exhibited at the Nicholas Metivier Gallery. is a display of the beauty of the real world intertwined with the fantastical. Appleby-Barr has been greatly influenced by the architecture seen during his travels including the Duomo in Florence and the Arc de Triomphe in Paris. He sculpts small fantasy figures and flora and then puts them into marquettes, so he can shift them around to explore and find the image to paint, creating a world between fantasy and reality. These paintings include the absurd, the unseen; they dare you to desire them, to step closer, to dissolve into the unknown.

Stephen Appleby-Barr, The Anatomy of Trees, 2019, oil on linen, 60 x 72 in.

Above the Clouds, Below the Sky, is an exhibition of painted escapes into either utopias or dystopias that are worlds far away from this one. While Leon Battista Alberti’s “De Pictura,” states that a painting should be a window into the world, Appleby-Barr creates windows into other worlds, the unknown worlds we desire. This exhibition of oils on linen, favours the colours of white with splashes of ember-like orange that flicker with life.

Stephen Appleby-Barr, Procession, 2019, oil on linen, 60 x 72 in.

In his 2019 piece, Debating the Walker’s Wisdom, he portrays a landscape washed in white with a cascading night sky glittering with silver stars. There is something ephemeral about these pieces. They are captured moments, suspended in time that could change at any moment. The black and white cat Bumpy, could decide to get up and walk straight off the canvas, leaving the landscape blank.

Stephen Appleby-Barr, Debating the Walker’s Wisdom, 2019, oil on linen, 36 x 30 in.

The rider in Dark Messenger with a Burning City, pauses in a world that is on fire, his face unknown to us, swallowed in shadows. He may have set the city on fire or maybe he’s one of the riders of the apocalypse. He is captured, suspended in this ephemeral moment, but he is on a horse, ready to escape the city that blazes behind him. 

Stephen Appleby-Barr, Dark Messenger with a Burning City, 2019 oil on linen, 71 x 59 in.

Stephen Appleby-Barr, originally from Toronto, now resides in London, England, where he continues to exhibit his work throughout Canada, the United States, and Europe. Above the Clouds, Below the Sky, is a glimpse into what the world could look like with a touch of fantasy. Seen through the artist’s looking glass, these pieces reflect worlds made of fire, worlds made of snow and clouds. To say the least, this is an exhibition of worlds, so pick your favourite, and dive right in.

Rachel Williams

Images are courtesy of Nicholas Metivier Gallery

*Exhibition information: November 14 – December 6, 2019, Nicholas Metivier Gallery, 190 Richmond Street East, Toronto. Gallery hours: Tue – Fri, 10 am – 6 pm; Sat, 12 – 5 pm.

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