Stephen Rose and the Ephemera of Contemporary Life

Each artist develops a specific style that can be instantly recognised, and Stephen Rose is no exception. His work focuses on the still life of ephemeral objects, a fleeting nature that appeals to the inner artist in all of us, as seen in the work he has exhibited and sold, such as his Arabesque of Celery and Clementines.

Rose’s use of empty space emphasizes the subject itself, capturing the eye and drawing it to that single object that seems to pulsate with a powerful inner life. His technical expertise allows him to elevate simple materials to works of art, as he’s able to create paintings from mundane objects that never fail to resonate deeply with the observer.

The Transitional Nature of life

An example of such a painting is An Azure Anniversary, an arrangement finely tuned to the details of a celebratory scene that immediately draws the eye to the knowledgeable use of the azure. The items on display, such as the champagne and the jewellery box, suggest a commemoration of luxury and bliss, although the viewer has to question why these subjects appear to not have been used yet.

An Azure Anniversary

The Frailty of Life

With The Worn Leather Chair (Errol’s Chair), Stephen Rose paints a picture of an antithesis: a decay that brings to mind the transient nature of a common and familiar object, and the character he was able to represent in a chair. The richness of the leather and the dark wood suggests comfort, sturdiness and masculinity, while showcasing a dilapidated look that comes with age. This painting almost forces the eye to be drawn to that single subject, as the simplicity of the background works to accentuate the chair, and also represents one of Rose’s exceptional skills: expressing the imperfections and weakness of life.

The Worn Leather Chair (Errol’s Chair)

The Valuable and the Cheap

The minimalist nature of Rose’s Dragon Bowl is offset by the luxury associated with blue and white china, a material collected by many. His painting shows a china bowl sitting in a space that cannot be defined and it pairs the luxury of the bowl with the cheap nature of the crumpled paper haphazardly thrown into it. This contradiction between something of value and something ordinary, even cheap, offers this painting a strong presence, so much so that the bowl can become the focus of any room it’s placed in.

Dragon Bowl


Stephen Rose’s paintings are influenced by the works of artists like Caravaggio and Chardin, but Rose brings a modern perspective to the ephemeral subjects that permeate daily life, from plastic bags to pieces of fruit. His use of the ‘negative space’ accentuates the object of his focus, and the still life he represents is permanently captured on a canvas, a contradiction to their ephemeral nature in real life.

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About Mark Mitchell

Dealers in 19th-20th Century British and Continental Works of Art
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