Stephen Chambers: the artist depicting a place “where creativity is honoured over hereditary privilege”

The Principal Farrier, 2017 © Stephen Chambers, photography by SCS. Image courtesy The Heong Gallery

Utterly beguiling work here by Stephen Chambers, who has painted 101 portraits of imaginary people from the fictional Court of Redonda.

The legend of the court is based around a tiny uninhabited Caribbean island, and Chambers creates the images as a “portrait of an imaginary court of maverick and singular individuals”, which are currently on show and hung in a way that references historic portrait collections at the Heong Gallery at Downing College, University of Cambridge.

According to the gallery – “The court imagines a utopian society that celebrates the creative and idiosyncratic." The legend of the island goes that Redonda was claimed in 1865 by a merchant trader who established an honorary monarchy that has been passed down to the present through a literary lineage.

“Collisions in fact and fiction about the island are described by the novelist Javier Marías, who was until recently a King of Redonda. Sparked by a ‘mental collaboration’ with Marías, who appointed many notable writers and artists to his imaginary court, Chambers has created a collective of individuals, where creativity is honoured over hereditary privilege.”

Curator, Emma Hill, adds: “The Court of Redonda is woven from a story about an uninhabitable place, which writers and artists have envisioned. It is a work about the collective human spirit. The expression of the necessity and freedom of creative imagination, for art’s ability to reflect to us the moment we are living in and for an individual artist’s statement to carry the weight of this, is at the heart of images Chambers presents us within the faces of his imaginary courtiers."

Stephen Chambers, Court of Redonda is on show at Heong Gallery at Downing College, University of Cambridge until 20 May 2018.

Lady of the Labyrinth, 2017 © Stephen Chambers, photography by SCS. Image courtesy The Heong Gallery

Lady of the Labyrinth, 2017 © Stephen Chambers, photography by SCS. Image courtesy The Heong Gallery

Postmaster General, 2017 © Stephen Chambers, photography by SCS. Image courtesy The Heong Gallery

Postmaster General, 2017 © Stephen Chambers, photography by SCS. Image courtesy The Heong Gallery

Bruno de Ultramer, 2017 © Stephen Chambers, photography by SCS. Image courtesy The Heong Gallery

Bruno de Ultramer, 2017 © Stephen Chambers, photography by SCS. Image courtesy The Heong Gallery

Bella de la Rosa, 2017 © Stephen Chambers, photography by SCS. Image courtesy The Heong Gallery

Bella de la Rosa, 2017 © Stephen Chambers, photography by SCS. Image courtesy The Heong Gallery

Guardian of the Guano, 2017 © Stephen Chambers, photography by SCS. Image courtesy The Heong Gallery

Guardian of the Guano, 2017 © Stephen Chambers, photography by SCS. Image courtesy The Heong Gallery

Magda, la Encantada, 2017 © Stephen Chambers, photography by SCS. Image courtesy The Heong Gallery

Magda, la Encantada, 2017 © Stephen Chambers, photography by SCS. Image courtesy The Heong Gallery

Campesino (with Despair in His Soul), 2017 © Stephen Chambers, photography by SCS. Image courtesy The Heong Gallery

Campesino (with Despair in His Soul), 2017 © Stephen Chambers, photography by SCS. Image courtesy The Heong Gallery