Pre 1985

To be any kind of artist requires considerable dedication and stamina. In this electronically obsessed age to be one who pursues a canon of abstract painting which has its roots in the early 20th Century may be regarded as plain backward, out of the step at least. However the fascination with organising flat areas of coloured pigment on rectangles of board or sailcloth still endures. These paintings by Stephen Jaques are evidence that this practice can still support art of high quality. He has “paid his dues” over the past twenty years, producing a body of work that acknowledges the legacies of two modern masters in particular – Klee and Miro’s overt calligraphic influences have gradually transferred to a planar, geometrically biased emphasis. Always a prolific draughtsman, Jaques still draws more obsessively – for its own sake – than anyone one I know. Lately I have recognised an affinity with the “Precisionists” – pioneers of abstraction – like Ilya Bolotowsky and Burgoyne Diller. The critic Carter Ratcliff has referred to “…(Precisionism’s) cousinly resemblance to Art Deco”, a stylistic quality which Jaques’ work shares. Not least there is also resemblance to Navajo rugs (“Eye Dazzlers”) and Middle Eastern Killims – a sheer joy of decoration. Jaques is a fan of Grand Prix racing – these paintings are as highly tuned as a Ferrari and as fast on the eye.

© Geoffrey Rigden 2001

Jaques’ paintings tend towards the figural rather than the landscape. Associative imagery is enmeshed into his improvisatory abstraction. It is not cooked up, nor is the imagery fiddled with in order to achieve that coy fashionable poise in which visual signs say - “I’m not this and that but I do look a little bit like I might be”. On the other hand, the painting is neither naïve nor chance-generated. Jaques strives towards innocence and a cultured simplicity and freshness, such as one finds in the work of the English painter, Roger Hilton. Rows of dots, squiggles and dashes have wriggled free of the architecture of design to take on a rhythmic, biomorphic liveliness. It is “brut” Miro. His colour has a particular raw, brassy flavour that brings to mind not only Miro but also Picasso and the Cobra painters.

John Cornall
From The Eagle Gallery catalogue 1993

Stephen Jaques works are mysterious super structures, oscillating between refined flatness and illusionary forms floating in deep space. The confidence with colour operates on our subliminal viewpoint. The paintings, although very present, have an absence, a detachment. This detachment is one you want to get to know. How is the colour system worked out? Jaques' draughtsmanship uses a complexity of decision making, which tone or edge will reveal the answer? The work has speed and dexterity of hand, that keep us on the edge of our seat.


Laurence Noga
(Beyond the Shadow)