William Stok exhibits a series of paintings of eyes on huge canvases, which he started to produce in 2002. His work always relates to events in his personal life and expressed through paintings, sculpture, photography and video, has a common denominator: ‘the container’. This is created as a result of the ‘act of looking’, in which he imagines a cone of vision as a series of lines radiating from the eye with the intention to encapsulate the object of interest.
This concept found different types of expression firstly with the frames related to perspective in his work of the ‘70’s, then in the perimeter of the painted image, and later in his sculpture where ready-made objects are encased by metal rods. These pieces culminated in the work ‘Girl looking at a sculpture’, a literal explanation of the ‘cone of vision’, with a series of metal rods jutting out from the girl towards the object of her gaze.
This piece was conceived two months before the events that brought him to his first eye operation. Since then, after five operations on his eyes in the past two years and periods of partial blindness, he started to paint eyes on a large scale, three metres in length. The need to be engulfed by a large scale image, the interest in the cinema screen, the attraction to classical frescos and American field painting of the 50’s and 60’s continue to be a pivot in these last images but the unfortunate events in his life changed the direction of his research. Instead of projecting the gaze towards the outside, the interest is inverted, focusing attention on the organ of vision: the eye.
All the images come from photographs from research he made in Moorfields Eye Hospital. He used the medium of painting because he felt photography was too anonymous and too immediate, whereas the slowness of the action of painting parallels the length of time needed for the eye to recover. He likes to see these paintings as having more to do with minimalism and abstraction than solely as an illustration of the condition of the eye; the representational image becomes a springboard for something else.
The exhibition also includes a video ‘May 2000’ related to the sculptures he made before the eye paintings. It shows two swaying figures encapsulated in structures made up of metal rods.
‘Stok’s painting is not a simple extract from art history: what makes it different is that he doesn’t follow the act of copying literally. Instead, his
approach is ‘blind painting’, direct, triggering a new interpretation of the old.’
Heinz-Norbert Jocks - Rheinische Post