When Stephen Bauman was young, he used to sneak into his brother’s room to rustle through the notebooks of the grafitti he was making.
“I would go back to my room and try to sketch them out in whatever way I could conceive of. That turned into 15 years of being a graffiti writer,” Bauman recalls.
When he was about 16 or 17, an interest in drawing people, faces, and the human figure began to develop.
“Because of the limited frame of reference available, in terms of classical figurative art in Miami at that time,” Bauman said, “it wasn’t until I headed off with a good friend to the Florence Academy of Art in Italy that I had any real clarity as to what figurative painting really consisted of.”
Bauman reflects on the merits of the rigorous training at the FAA: “Drawing the figure five days a week, for three to five hours a day for four years, really helps to develop a set of sensitivities, which allow you to make observations that perhaps otherwise you wouldn’t be able to make. It creates a new avenue to explore the paintings that you knew before and provides you with a new set of experiences to associate them with, making them all the more special.”
As for his art and what he’s doing, Bauman’s immediate response is clear: “I’m celebrating an intimate connection to my existence, and trying to make sense of it. That’s what happens in my studio every day. I’m thinking about life, I’m exploring that thought process through my work.”
It also applies to the physical process of painting.
“For some paintings, oftentimes I’m just in it and searching for where it will go,” Bauman said, though at times it can simply be a matter of pure inspiration as well: “My painting, ‘When I Was Young,’ didn’t evolve very much while I was working. It had a very straight trajectory. I saw the end of it from the beginning and just needed to go there.”
“It’s not imperative that my thinking and feelings come across exactly as I experience them. The intensity of thought and feeling needs to come across, but as to how it reads, it will vary depending on what the viewers themselves bring to the encounter,” Bauman adds.
When I ask Bauman about what he hopes to achieve artistically, he finds it a question that needs to be asked continuously. “For me, the answer is a bit different every time. The search is the objective.”
Stephen Bauman is represented by Haynes Galleries in Nashville, Tenn., and Hersh Fine Art in Glen Cove, N.Y. Wim Van Aalst is a painter based in Belgium.