Artist of the Week: Stephen Poling, Expressing Intuition

Emotions behave like the particles of a gas.

Just as the atoms – in tiny, violent collisions – fill their container, emotions fill theirs. 

Even idiomatically, when we speak about emotions, the word swells and stretches out. We say we are “filled with emotion,” “bursting with emotion,” and “overwhelmed with emotion.” Emotions, both positive and negative, become a haze over the visible world, nebulous and indefinable.

But painter, Stephen Poling defines the indefinable.

Light and Color 2 (48″ x 40″) by Stephen Poling, acrylic painting

“I’m always trying to express a deeper “truth” – the deeper reality of what lies under the surface – this is not a visual thing, it’s a feeling or a knowing, or an intuition that I’m trying to express,” says Stephen.

His art is not the visible world, but that vague and uncontainable nebula.

So he runs into the inevitable question, “intuition is intangible. So how [do I] represent this visually?” says Stephen.

If this were a question asked by a high school Art History teacher – pacing across the blackboard in an odd, fluorescently lit Socratic method – then the obvious answer would be: abstraction. Easy.

But this is not the solution for Stephen. 

“I need a representational reference point to ground into, to give the imagination some sort of structure or framework. So for me, my challenge is to give feeling and intuition a visual presence,” says the artist.  

Green Figure 2 (32″ x 24″) Stephen Poling, acrylic 

The result is a collection of paintings, often figures and landscapes, in expressive, kinetic brushstrokes and bold, unexpected colors.  

“I’ve been painting in a loose, spontaneously impressionist way for quite a long time. I feel this approach lends itself well to expressing a sensation of movement, energy, and joy, which perfectly suits what I want to convey,” he says.

The differences between his figures and his landscapes show a thoughtful depth behind the paintings. The figure is a retainer for projected emotion and association. Whereas landscape is a release for those same emotions and associations.  

“The profound nature of using the human figure as a foundation for a painting goes beyond the rational mind. As viewers, we project an infinite amount of meaning and feeling onto this subject,” he says. “The expressive potential is infinite.”

Standing Man (30″ x 24″) by Stephen Poling, acrylic 

On the other hand, he describes an alternative power found in a landscape.  

“[A landscape painting] becomes free from the constant unconscious bombardment of projections just simply because it’s not the human form. My intention is still to give form to the unseen but now I’m enjoying the lightness and freedom of working with the landscape,” he says.

Rocks and Light (48″ x 40″) by Stephen Poling, acrylic painter 

Despite the differences between them, they are still, as he puts it “a continuation of the same motivating force.”

See Stephen Poling’s full portfolio on UGallery!