The Arts Club is delighted to announce a solo show by British artist Stephen Chambers. The 31 works exhibited are selected from the artist’s acclaimed series of 101 portraits, The Court of Redonda, Chambers’ imagined community of writers, artists, filmmakers and thinkers he admires, residing on the tiny, uninhabited island of Redonda. The complete series was shown for the first time at a Collateral Event of the 57th International Art Exhibition of the Venice Biennale.
Located in the Eastern West Indies, the island of Redonda is notable for its extraordinary literary mythos. It first took shape as a fantasy in the mind of Matthew Dowdy Shiell, a merchant trader who claimed the island in 1865 and elected himself monarch – effectively building castles in the air that others would add to and populate. His son M.P. Shiell, a writer of science fiction, determined that the kingship would be passed through a literary succession, and anointed the English poet John Gawsworth as his successor. Gawsworth went on to bestow honours to his friends, creating a court of writers, poets, artists and ne’er-do-wells.
Chambers has described his work as ‘the ignition point of unresolved narratives,’ discovering through the concept of Redonda a labyrinthine weave of visual possibilities. He was introduced to the legend through the writings of the novelist Javier Marías – a former king of Redonda, who appointed many creative individuals to his honorary court, including Pedro Almodóvar, A.S. Byatt and W.G. Sebald. Sparked by a ‘mental collaboration’ with Marías, Chambers has envisioned his own court of luminaries.
The Court of Redonda is an exploration of the human condition, capturing the complexities of personality, leadership, power and politics. With his nuanced cast of characters, Chambers provides an evocative perspective on shared experience, illuminating both strengths and weaknesses in the human spirit. Beyond the redolent qualities of The Court as a whole, Chambers’ masterful use of light and emotive colour palette enriches the delicate details and expression of each character represented, bringing them to life in the mind of the viewer.
The Court of Redonda at The Arts Club invites the viewer to consider their own sources of inspiration, the systems of power influencing their day-to-day existence and the unique capacity of art to evoke an imaginary world built on real observations.
Stephen Chambers was elected to the Royal Academy of Art, London, in 2005 and was awarded an Honorary Fellowship from Downing College in the University of Cambridge, in 2016. In addition to the Venice Biennale, The Court of Redonda has been shown at the Heong Gallery at Downing College, the Royal Academy, London and the Pera Museum, Istanbul.
The show is curated by Pernilla Holmes and Amelie von Wedel, with special thanks to Stephen Chambers and to Vigo Gallery for their collaboration.