As seen with Stephen's work shortlisted for the second prize of the Sunny Art Prize 2018, queer identity and queer culture, as well as the representation of sexual identity and orientation are at the core of Stephen Doyle’s practice. The artist's work will provide audiences with the chance to critically re-evaluate their conception of what gender is, means, and what it encompasses for people on a daily basis. The artist ‘questions the role of gender and its correlation with biological sex. Can gender be expressed or is it finite and defined at birth?’.
The striking feature that the artist's paintings have in common is the extensive representation of fabric and textile material wrapped around the androgynous naked bodies in the highly geometrical compositions. For the artist, the use of fabric is an extension of self-expression. Its use in daily life is often perceived and understood as a reflection of one’s truer persona. Metaphorically speaking, the patterns individuals identify with during their daily lives are a tool to ‘decipher’ the identity of the other, of the individuals and the communities that live around us. As patterns of categorisation dictate our daily lives, the human mind therefore never fails to compartmentalise and categorise individuals when it comes to gender. This frequently happens as we often perceive patterns as either feminine or masculine.
The irresistible force to separate and clearly define identity drives the mind to trap itself in an endless illusionary cycle of perceived order and stability of categories. The paintings shown in the exhibition try to break such cycle and interrupt the illusion which surrounds perceptions of clearly defined gender identities. Stephen manipulates patterns usually associated with either the feminine and the masculine, interweaving them together in his compositions. In particular, floral designs and bright colours, which are traditionally associated with the feminine, entwine with geometric patterns and dark colours. The latter are usually considered more masculine in previous Western traditions of figurative painting, art and design. At the same time, the merging variety of patterns and colours surrounding the figures are meant to deconstruct their perceived fixed identity so to render them ‘neutral’, namely non-binary. By doing so the figures' identity is subject to the viewer’s ideology, allowing us to readdress preconceptions of gender.
Furthermore, the environments within the paintings are expressed as solid constants, contrasted by the spectral figures. These environments are a commentary on the restriction of gender expression in a binary system. Finally, the site-specific installation seen as an extension of the paintings’ environments into the gallery space. In doing so, the viewers can be part of the artworks and the figures' restricted reality. This stimulates the viewers into questioning their own identity.
Stephen Doyle is an Irish artist. He graduated at the Crawford College of Art and is currently based in Cork, Ireland. His most recent exhibitions have received international critical acclaim. Stephen Fry and Rory O’ Neill (aka Panti Bliss) quoted his solo show in 2017 as ‘tragically necessary’ and ‘impressive’. Sean Kissane, the Curator of Exhibitions at the Irish Museum of Modern Art, stated that ‘Doyle’s work takes the contemporary concerns of his generation – and using the traditional medium of portraiture has brought it right up to date and made it relevant to all of us’. The Irish Times has selected Stephen Doyle as one of the top 50 people to watch in 2019. Stephen participated in the Artist Residency Programme (April 2019) as well as the Sunny Art Prize 2018. These opportunities will see his work engaging with new audiences across the world. This is an effort to redefine how the public across the world approaches issues surrounding gender and identity.
 The Oxford Dictionaries define non-binary as: ‘Denoting or relating to a gender or sexual identity that is not defined in terms of traditional binary oppositions such as male and female or homosexual and heterosexual.’