Works by Karen Stamper


Karen Stamper | Biography

Growing up on the east coast of Yorkshire as a happy beachcomber, I was attracted to the faded painted wood, scraps of gaudy plastic, brightly coloured fishing floats and nets: all sun dried, sand blasted, salted and weathered. My Dad’s passion was sailing, each Friday we would pack up and spend the weekend on the coast. I was free to wander, explore and collect only returning at mealtimes. This freedom set my path. Old boats, harbours, the sun-salty smell of tarpaulin and diesel, and the sound of halyards tapping on a mast are all comforting childhood memories. They have stayed with me and I still naturally gravitate towards the harbour in any coastal town.

At Art College I was immediately draw to the dense flat colours of silk screen printing. It was on a college travel scholarship to Paris that I discovered turquoise shutters, red chequered tablecloths and curling iron balconies: shapes and colours so frivolous to me growing up in the worn, tough, solid fishing town of Hull. It was in Paris that I saw Matisse’s cut-outs for the first time; it wasn’t just the scale of his work but the intensity, the pin holes, crease lines and torn edges that fired my imagination to work with collage papers. 

From the stepping stone of Paris, I continued travelling to sunnier countries, working in Turkey, Greece, France, India, Morocco, the Caribbean, eventually settling in New Zealand before returning to the UK ten years later. All the while I recorded in my sketchbooks, not just of the scenes before me, but a collection of urban marks, rust stains, peeling paint and local paper ephemera.
Foreign lands, harbours and urban docklands remain my inspiration. Increasingly there is a strong abstract element, but there are recognisable parts that draw the viewer in; snippets of lettering, nautical structures, architectural lines, motifs, textures and colours that allow the viewer to use their imagination too.

I work in mixed media, combining found papers with layers of painted tissue and acrylic paint to create a vibrant integrated surface. I recompose, conceal and reveal, deliberately avoiding representational clarity to create a patchwork of places, memories and journeys, all bonded together; some fading, some peeling, some permanent. The slick, the shiny and new makes little impression on me; it is the worn, weathered and once loved, with a sense of human presence echoing the passing of time, that catch my attention.

Contact paulcopson@yahoo.co.uk