To have a true appreciation of Stephen Eastaugh’s art, it helps to know that he is a constant traveller, having visited every continent and lived in more than 100 countries since 1981, from Australia to Argentina, to the North Pole and Antarctica. Accordingly, his artworks are often made from local materials and are easily transportable. Eastaugh’s visual and technical inventiveness positions him as one the most remarkable Australian artists of his generation.
In the last few years, while in Broome, in northwestern Australia, Eastaugh has begun using as his canvas the surfaces of mother of pearl shells (Pinctada Maxima), which his Dutch father had also collected when employed in this region on tropical pearl luggers.
VESSELS (Argentina, 2017) can hold liquid or float in it, or both. The “vessels” in this series range from a mug to a swimming pool, all potentially overflowing, all carved into shells that are vessels themselves.
LOST EMERGENCY CRAFT (Australia/Argentina, 2016) consists of 12 etched pearl shells and places life rafts and other small craft atop mountains, far away from where they may normally be of use, but handy should the sea one day rise to meet them.
Similar in theme, LIFECRAFT - RESCUE AND SEARCH (Argentina, 2017) evokes the search for what is lost and the endless attempts to rescue it. In this large work a small empty boat floats in the water near the shore—or is it in the sky near the ground?—searching for land or perhaps searching for passengers. This work on textile, also a portable material, evokes the sewing skills a traveller needs to survive, whether to repair a tent or a replace a button on a shirt, and the acrylic paint and cotton and synthetic thread in it add texture, which has always been a large element in Eastaugh’s work. These themes are approached more modestly and intimately in SEARCH AND RESCUE (Argentina, 2017), a series of small works on paper.
From trying to stay above water to delivering it to where it is most precious on land, WATERING (Australia/Argentina, 2016) is inspired by Eastaugh’s mother watering the indigenous garden of his childhood home. Etched into shells, the images of seemingly useless taps and empty nozzles like gaping mouths reflect both dire thirst and the desire to quench it.
Eastaugh was raised and had his art education in Australia, and has had over 100 international solo exhibitions. This is his seventh solo show in the Suzanne Biederberg Gallery. His work is highly sought after and can be found in many public and private collections, including the National Gallery of Australia, Nevada Museum of Art, the Museum of Contemporary Art Australia and Parliament House, Canberra.