Backwoods Gallery
More than a gallery


Backwoods Gallery exhibit work by artists who have a background in street art and illustration, and provide a space for artists to present their work, on their own terms, without limitations.

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The Resistible Rise of a Bear of Little Brain by Stephen Ives


Exhibition Essay

Stephen Ives, employs a rare level of expert craftsmanship to present an unfiltered and lucid exploration of his brilliant imagination. Ives' subconscious pours free-style poetry into his sculptures and illustrations, lacing his work with a playful language of archetypal symbols and colours.

As his audience, we are free to enjoy the surreal, superficial brilliance of a B17 Bomber with a baby's face or a gun turret placed in dissected eyeball. However, if we choose to delve deeper into his work there is hidden meaning in each and every detail, waiting for us to decipher.

Ives describes his work as 'bricolage', a French term, recently popularised by artists such as Tom Sachs and mockingly employed to affect a pretentious air upon a style of art that essentially uses found objects or sometimes even just junk. Stephen Ives brings a new level of abstraction to the tradition by working with discarded toys, cut-up and expertly resculpted and repurposed. The inherent cultural references that the toys lend each sculpture is actually where the symbolic subtext of Ives’ work is most apparent. If his subconscious is talking to us through his art, his inner child is without doubt the ring leader.

On July 7th, Stephen Ives is opening ‘The Resistible Rise of a Bear of Little Brain’, a pseudo-historical war museum at Backwoods Gallery. Running until July 23rd, the collection of dioramic sculptures, historic sketches and priceless war paraphernalia recounts the key events in the darkest chapter of recent fictional history, ‘The Great Pooh War’. The megalomaniacal transformation of Winnie the Pooh from silly old bear to vicious dictator poised to take possession of the one hundred acre woods.

More than a fictional universe which has been developing in Ives' head since 2002, ‘The Great Pooh War’ is a stern warning of the dangers inherent in the lust for power and honey. It is a tale of what happens when the seams of society come undone and madness takes hold, with an absolutely uncanny similarity to our own world. Go figure.

It is also, of course, a brilliantly conceived and executed, absurdist exhibition of fantastically detailed sculptures, illustration and installations by an artist who we consider a treasure to the Australian art scene and who we are extremely proud to work with.

Stephen Ives

Architect of fantastic worlds.

Through a language of seemingly cool and indifferent symbols, Stephen Ives presents us with a colour-coded manual to the human psyche.

However, upon reading these symbols, you quickly realise that there is nothing cool or indifferent about the contents spelt therein. Through the poetry of his language, Stephen bares the naked confessions of an honest mind, brutally uncompromising and universally relatable.

Working mostly in illustration and a form of sculpture that Stephen refer to as ‘bricolage’, his metaphors are blended with artistry and flawless technique into a dreamscape reminiscent of the Franco-Belgian Bande dessinée and the early surrealists. You are reminded of your first love, your secret identities and the things of which you dare not speak.

Selected Artworks

Earlier Event: May 19
Transition by Deams
Later Event: August 4
Self Loathing by Mic Porter