The starting point for this body of work was Lucy Stein’s fascination with Vanessa Bell’s book cover designs. Her covers for Virginia Wolf are enigmatic though oddly slapdash images that capture a mood and sense of place in a few lines. It is this elegant abandon that Stein has aimed to emulate.
Orgasms in Hell was made in July and August at the Banff Centre in Alberta, Canada and at Exercise in Vancouver. In Banff Stein discovered the liberating potential of mono-printing, the results of which are on view alongside a series of small to medium sized paintings in oil. The prints are to be viewed as one work, lightly mimicking the effect of decorative panelling. Motifs and slogans are repeated and images are often re-worked in “ghost prints”.
The title “Orgasms in Hell” refers to an early text on sleep paralysis by the artist, but is also suggestive of the hot-blooded feeling of urgency that flows through the paintings and prints. The work runs with many of Stein’s key themes: hauntings, desire, pheromones, mimesis between man and nature and other psychological ambiguities. Orgasms in Hell is a continuation of her interest in actualizing these intangible subject matters in oil paint.
The paintings and prints are suffused with literary allusions, however none offer straight forward narratives. Instead they draw from a lexicon of motifs and symbols that the artist has been steadily building upon. These are rooted deep in a nostalgic imagination; inspired by Bell’s cover designs but honed by memories of TV adaptations of 20th Century classics such as Joseph Losey’s “The Go Between” or Ken Russell’s “Women in Love”. Enigmatic characters engage in opaque “period dramas” and a magical communion with nature is unleashed. Trees sprout human limbs and human limbs become trees. The struggle to capture its elusive wit gives each painting an eccentric autonomy, whereas it is repetition that allows the mono-prints to reveal their drollery.