Stephen Palmer transcribes the ephemera of everyday life – from second-hand records to newspaper clippings (often obituaries or reports of a noted individual’s death) – into paint and pencil with exquisite precision. His coolly analytical approach belies a longing to create an order from the chaos of the mundane, as well as a wistful nostalgia for the simpler pleasures of his youth. This process of transcription – reproducing faithfully every nuance, every discolouration, crease or tear in the original – confers a sense of importance, value and permanence to objects and events that would otherwise be seen as the refuse of our disposable culture.
The end has no end
An ongoing series of drawings based on newspaper clippings. The selected stories are not strictly speaking ‘news’, but rather they offer a historic perspective on a number of topics including ufology, Cold War relations, space exploration and collecting.
Newspapers have a particular value to obsessive hoarders and collectors, who fill their homes with tabloids and broadsheets, hoping perhaps that the information contained within will impart knowledge, concretise memories or offer up a form of control that is otherwise lacking in their lives.
Exhibition: The end has no end, Vane, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2013.
Essay: Modern life is rubbish, Rebecca Travis.
Dead and Alive Songs
The Dead and Alive Songs is a limited edition 7 inch vinyl single and accompanying screen print making reference to all the songs in Palmer’s record collection that include in their titles the words ‘dead’, ‘death’, ‘die’ and ‘dying’, ‘alive’, ‘life’, ‘live’ and ‘living’. The vinyl single features two compositions demonstrating that in popular song optimistic proclamation is equally countered by dire pessimism: the alive side is a celebration of all the songs about existence while the dead side includes an arrangement based on all the songs about expiration. The Dead and Alive Songs is packaged in a full-colour sleeve accompanied by a 7 inch square screen print featuring an image of by Sharpen Temple’s 1973 single of the same name.
Vinyl records have an interesting quality in that they are a kind of defunct technology that refuses to go away. The advent of MP3s has seemingly made vinyl more popular – if you’ve downloaded a track to listen to on your iPod but also want an object to add to your collection, vinyl records are somehow much more interesting and tactile than CDs, the artwork more appealing and the record itself a warmer and more fulfilling listening experience.
To accompany the release of The Dead and Alive Songs an exhibition of related works at Vane, Newcastle upon Tyne, included a new series of paintings featuring images of charity shop purchased 7 inch singles. Each of the records’ sleeves, all of which are the paper variety rather than picture sleeves, have been customised in some way by their former owners – sometimes simply by the addition of the song title or band’s name in a youthful scrawl, or in one case an attempt to recreate an entire picture sleeve, by hand, using felt-tip pens.
Exhibition: The Dead and Alive Songs, Vane, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2008.
Read: Robert Clark’s Preview, The Guardian, The Guide.
Worthless little tokens
Worthless little tokens is a series of paintings cataloguing a collection of free, found and received objects – matchboxes picked up in pubs or in the street, pens received through the post from charities and credit card companies as an incentive to sign up to a particular product or scheme, sugar, salt and sauce sachets collected as mementos of trips to places (and motorway service stations) far and wide. These everyday bits and bobs are arranged in small groups, isolated from their original functional context, and presented as if for scientific or taxonomic classification. The objects depicted are drawn from a larger collection that is neither wholly random nor entirely specific in composition. The objects can be classified by type (matchbox, pen etc) and also by how they came to be in my possession (found; received as a gift from someone I know or more frequently an unknown source; borrowed or ‘stolen’). Many of the objects feature a logo or design that is a kind of adjunct to the original functional purpose, often in themselves miniature works of art that allude to distant shores, remarkable feats of creativity, political power and design. Whilst travel (modes of transport and far off places) and iconic personalities are popular motifs, many objects feature neither of these subjects.
Exhibition: Worthless little tokens, Vane, Newcastle upon Tyne, 2007.
Essay: Recycling with a difference, Roy Exley.
All material on this site © Stephen Palmer 2018.