Eddy Stevens was born in Brasschaat (Antwerp) on May 16, 1965. He attented the Art Academy in St.-Niklaas and was a student of Guy Wauters and Sonya Rosalia Bauters. He staged his first exhibition when he was 16.
In the grip of supernatural inspirationWhen Cuchulain, half man, half son of the sun god, was caught by a supernatural inspiration, a strange fluttering light appeared around his head. Full of awe the old Irish chronicles called it the ‘thorn-bush light’ of the hero. In Cuchulain’s case it announced the battle-frenzy that rendered him absolutely invincible on the battlefield and made him fight the darkness of evil with all his powers. In a broader sense, however, this light may be explained as the intrusion of the divine into the human netherworld. The image we just
evoked illustrates to what degree this ‘light from above’, this ‘more than personal’ inspiration that also typifies the canvases of Eddy Stevens, is the crucial factor determining everything. It makes the difference between a fight with an uncertain outcome and victory but also between a good painting and a true work of art. This radiance illuminates the fantasy world around Eddy Stevens and transforms it to what the artist himself calls a ‘spiritual life-world’. Stevens says about himself “what cannot be in reality is possible in my thoughts and I incorporate it into my paintings”.
This way it seems as if Eddy is saying that his canvases are a kind of enclave, which is correct. Time and again anyone who understands the art of seeing discovers in them a safe haven for something that has got out of sight in the real world; the primordial model of honest and deep relations between one human being and another. In these paintings the thorn-bush light of the hero breaks through with force and shows us its pure form. Considered in this way these works retain a memory of a pure, mythological time of origin that in respect of content remains the touchstone of everything that came later and subsequently covered the original image and hid it from sight. Our modern times, complex and chaotic as they often are, may gradually be extinguishing the clear light from above, but the darkness is never all-encompassing. Artists like Eddy Stevens remain sensitive to the glow and show us the way to its source. For that reason we interpret these fantastic canvases as views of ‘the most important human possibilities’, possibilities to which we are called by these intriguing images and that are still within our reach. With the brush of the virtuoso and with the spear he is clasping in his hand in his self-portrait [page 77] Stevens points out their commanding reality as well as the need to realise them. The contents of mythological tales are never bound to time or to a specific period. Time stands still in them, negating eternity. Maybe it is there that we find the light of timeless humanity that enables us to understand both stories that are thousands of years old and these modern paintings.
Stevens moved from Antwerp to France to be able to live and work in such a timeless atmosphere. Pure and true humanity is to be found far away from the noise of modern society in which the speed of life makes everybody a prisoner of time. The twenty-four hours of day are rigidly divided into parts and segments reserved for compulsory recreation or activities that in the last instance are removed from our will and estrange us from ourselves. An artist whose work has a contrary intention cannot but free himself from this and Stevens has done so. He says he has never been so close to nature as during the past twelve months he has spent as a ‘hermit’ with his wife and model Sophie. Nature, however, is often a silent mirror in which we can see ourselves clearly.
.The first work of art he ever made was a moonscape when he was twelve. Eddy, dreamy and introvert then as ever, painted a place that was ‘not here’ but more real to him than anything he could see with his eyes. No craving for far-away exotic places, but the visualisation of the silent place where his world showed its vulnerable inside, where the ripples in the black water of the emotional life disappear and the image becomes clear. Thus he started his personal and artistic quest inside what you might call a protected dream. [painting “A Protected Dream”, page 82] Dreams reveal what to us humans is of the greatest importance and most real. A true artist must have the unique talent to show that to others, but of course these others in turn have to allow him to develop his gift.
At school Eddy only got straight A’s for the creative subjects, as the rest was of no interest to him. He liked to potter about in the garage that had been refashioned into a workshop. His brother Walter kept reptiles over there as a hobby. A visit by the painter Guy Wauters changed all that. The worktable had to go and an easel took its place. It was as plain as a pikestaff that school was not really going to work out. Eddy had to go and look for a job. Thus the two brothers and their father went to Antwerp every day. Walter attended university and Eddy was employed in his father’s diamond-cutting factory. Down there he excelled in drawing the important saw-lines on the rough diamonds with astonishing precision. This tells us something about his extraordinary powers of observation and his sharp gaze, qualities that clearly return in his paintings. He regularly went to the Art Academy in Sint Niklaas and came into contact with the painter Sonya Rosalia Bauters. She took him under her wing, was not easily satisfied with what he did and became the source of Eddy’s great technical and artistic skills. Alone in his studio he felt like a fish in water, but inevitably he had to go to the diamond-cutting shop every day with a growing dislike.
Whatever the situation - at least he made good money, which enabled him to travel to the Far East and America. His experiences strengthened him as a human being and as a person. He gained a firmer grip on life. Thus, he stayed in Bombay for six months and acquired a deep insight into the underlying emotionality and sensitivity of Indian art and culture. When he set foot again on his native soil he cut to the chase and decided that henceforward he would do nothing but paint. At first it was not possible to make a living out of art, so he took commissions for murals, frescoes and stage sets. In fact he had a small painting-factory like many early Flemish painters before him, and just like them he saw to it that there was always some time for free work. That is what it had all been about from the beginning!