Stephen Bambury’s productive preoccupation for over forty years with the square, circle and cross has yielded a body of work that mines rich seams. Unlike the rigid formalism adopted by some other artists of the same period, Bambury’s work fuses intellectual and emotional content with material form. He has stated that he has ‘always seen the paintings as a means of promoting an inner reflection and of creating a context where an experiential exchange could take place’; what he calls a painting experience. The central importance of materiality to Bambury’s practice is underpinned by comprehensive technical investigation; he has mastered the use of copper, aluminium, paper, resin, graphite, precious metal gilding, chemical patinas and rust. Sculptural elements comprised of steel, oil and burnt timbers expand the notions of a painting practice. Photography, screen prints and collaborative publications constitute another area of current investigation.
Throughout his career, Bambury has traveled extensively in the USA, Europe, and Asia, exploring art and architecture from a diversity of historic periods and cultures; these experiences remaining integral to his studio practice. Employing an exceptional range of scale, Bambury explores and reconnects the apparent dualities of light / dark, negative / positive, masculine / feminine, the sea and the land, the intellectual and emotional and the universal and the particular. The cross works utilise both the form of the cross and its historical associations, such as the four cardinal points, Malevich’s Suprematist cross, and McCahon’s Tau cross. Historical readings of Fra Angelico are given allegorical or emblematic form. Bambury undertakes numerous site-responsive commissions, an area of particular interest for him.
Born in Christchurch, Stephen Bambury has been exhibiting regularly in New Zealand since the mid-1970s, after graduating with a Diploma of Fine Arts (Hons) from the University of Auckland. From the mid-1980s he has exhibited in the USA, Australia, France, Germany, Austria and Slovenia. Among other awards he received the inaugural New Zealand Moët & Chandon Fellowship in 1989; including the Fellowship period, Bambury spent two and a half years living and working in France. A major retrospective exhibition at Wellington’s City Gallery and the Auckland Art Gallery, and the publication of a monograph, marked the turn of the century. Since 2009 Bambury has been exhibiting regularly in Frankfurt, Germany, and in 2017/18 has been establishing a new European studio in France.