Artist review: Stephen Snoddy

You’ll know when you see a artwork by Stephen Snoddy, he has a very distinctive style. I think it’s the mix of the bold colours and geometric shapes. But I hear you, there are lots of artists that work with bold colours and geometric shapes, but not like Stephen Snoddy does.

Stephen Snoddy is a Visiting Professor at Manchester School of Art, as well as that, he is also an Honorary Member at Royal Ulster Academy! He has some amazing solo exhibitions under his belt, and has worked with some big names. He says:

‘The highlights [of my career so far] was having a large solo show, ‘Looking Out’, in Brussels, with a beautiful hard back, full colour catalogue in 2016, but I tend not to look back but keep pressing forward for new projects. But it was also an honour to show work at Southampton City Art Gallery (where I was Director 1996-98) in my exhibition called ‘Looking At’ and show alongside its great 20th Century British art collection and then showing in a retail space in Mayfair with Paul Smith really gave me a completely different context to show the work. It was fresh and gave me an impression of how my work looks in private collections.’

We first spotted Stephen’s work on Instagram, (where we find most of our artists) and we shared a photo that grouped some of his paintings together. Each painting had a kind of glow about them, with the paint looking almost luminescent. Within the photo, the paintings were like a mix and match of artwork, each individual yet worked so well together as a set. It was like they were all from the same family, similar colours, similar shapes, all made up of the same DNA but with their own differences and their own personalities. Their personalities being bright and bold.

One of Stephen’s pieces that stands out to me is ‘Untitled 146 (After Matisse)’. This piece somehow reminds me of a holiday, hotel balcony. There is nothing better, than when you are abroad on holiday, and you open the curtains and the balcony door first thing in the morning, to let in that fresh, holiday air (there is definitely a holiday smell!). This painting gives me that impression. Maybe it’s the yellow, orange and red colours, perhaps giving me a Spanish feel about them? Maybe it’s the soft blue, the fresh morning sky on a hot Summer’s day? Maybe it’s the grey on the right, could this be the blinds pulled to the side, the wall between the balconies perhaps? Whatever it is, I can’t wait for that view again.

‘Looking Out 2’ is another piece that grabs my attention. Another staple piece of Snoddy’s, it carries all his characteristics, bold, geometric shapes, colours popping, yellows, reds and blues. But when you look closer, you see all the details of the painting. Notice the contrast between the thick, yellow paint, compared to the base of the painting, the more softer, whispy, amber colour. Also, notice the slight bleed between the yellow and blue shapes, creating that little slither of green just tickling the canvas. Snoddy hasn’t simply painted geometric shapes, he has given each block it’s own texture, it’s own purpose, using different paint strokes and different thicknesses. This creates an in depth painting of abstract shapes.

Another of Snoddy’s work that stands out to me is ‘Untitled 137 (After Matisse)’. This feels like two paintings combined. On the right there is Snoddy’s staple design, the strong shapes, more triangle in this piece, but with the pops of red and yellow standing strong and proud. However, to the left of the painting is more of a soft, blurry, still life type painting. Can I see a bowl and an orange fruit sat there? It’s almost visible but also very abstract. It’s there, but not quite on a table, maybe a plinth. It’s framed in a way that messes with the eye, almost like a reflection of it rather that the items themselves. The dripping paint isn’t always seen in Stephen’s work, which adds something new to his style. This piece to me, stands out for being different to Stephen’s other work. However, Stephen says; ‘I like to work in blocks and I want to continue across a range of techniques as one will lead one to something different and keeps it fresh’. And if you find ‘Untitled 134 (After Matisse)’ and ‘Untitled 135 (After Matisse)’ you can see this relationship. Three similar paintings but again, each with their own unique style, connected yet different to each other.

We spoke with Stephen and asked him what pieces he is most proud of. He says:

‘There are a series of 4 paintings ‘Untitled 164, 165, 166 and 167’ that were a sumnation and combination of concerns I was working on before the ‘Homage’ series (to Matisse) and also include references to Matisse. The formal quality, scale of the works and the window motif all seemed to coalesce into 4 works that fitted as a complete series. I was lucky enough for a collector from Norway to buy all 4 and keep them together. It seemed that these 4 works were an end to an enquiry that had begun in 2013. I then stopped painting for a while and moved onto making pastel drawings.’

These two together are another great example of how Snoddy’s work are so identifiable, all within relation to each other. You can see the similarities, the shapes mirrored, with some parts being identical (the two strips of red and pink tones at the base for example). To me, I can see almost a ‘day’ and ‘night’ version of this painting. ‘Untitled 165’ on the left being the day, colours are brighter, the sky is blue, everything is more sharp and in focus. ‘Untitled 166’ on the other hand, is softer, the sun has set, the blur has gone, everything is a little hazier and calmer.

There are quite a few texts out there that review Stephen Snoddy’s work. One by Art Historian Richard Cork says; ‘Snoddy wants viewers to look at the relationships between his works, and how he carries lines and formats from one picture over to another. He sometimes regards two consecutive paintings as a diptych, with left and right-hand panels forming parts of a composite whole. There is an obsessive commitment to playing out endless permutations of specific forms and he goes along with an ontological methodology. The work becomes defined by its geometries, serial approach and limitless variations. In his own words, ‘The paintings often come in pairs or a small series and incorporate architectural and geometric structures with colour to get everything right – space, line, form. The final result is a balanced resolution made through corrections, revisions and re-workings.’

You can see more of Stephen Snoddy’s work on his Instagram page @snoddy.stephen where you can find a lot of pieces £200 and under as he is taking part in the #artistsupportpledge campaign.

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