Karen Stephens is an Australian painter based in Winton Queensland, the traditional landscape of the Koa people. Practicing in the field of contemporary landscape painting Karen pays respect to the numerous First Nation people and language groups of the ancient trading route that is now the Diamantina Channel region.
Stephens is attracted to the mysterious landscapes shaped by deep time long before her pioneering ancestors colonised this region in the late 1800’s. Stephens is a fifth generation of George Cragg who discovered the first opal in Queensland in 1888 and the founder of mining settlement Opalton 100km west of Winton.
Engaging compositions and spatial constructions that challenge the western perspective, Karen focuses less on the visual representation of the object and space and more on the sensed experience of landscape by taking an object from its pure form to produce an improvised felt experience. Disrupting the horizon in Australian landscape was the impetus in Stephen’s honours research (2017) and solo exhibition ‘Fishing for Landscape’ (2020), a collection of paintings that pay homage to her ancestors, the profession of the painter and the opaler and the subterranean landscape of the Opaler that is essentially horizonless.
Stephens is known for her unique painting surfaces that she manufactures from found ephemera that contain text. The action of tearing and dislocating text from its original source of mass media and placing randomly generates suggestive and opinionative messages in the mind of the spectator which range from being profoundly absurd to universally prophetic.
Recent projects include two major commissions. In 2021 the inaugural Outback Way Outdoor Gallery, Northern Territory a major billboard infrastructure project and arts and cultural initiative funded by the Australian Government. Two of Stephens’ paintings ‘Noogooraville’ and ‘Green Mulla Mulla’s’ join the works of 28 artists along the Plenty Highway, East MacDonnell Ranges. In 2020, Stephens was one of three Central Queensland artists commissioned to create new works for the Rockhampton Museum of Art soon to be opened in 2022.
In her early career Stephens has been shortlisted in several prestigious prizes for landscape painting and in 2016 she won the Queensland Regional Art Awards (Flying Arts Alliance) and toured artworks with this exhibition four times to Queensland galleries.
In 2018, Stephens was appointed Exhibition Coordinator of the Outback Regional Gallery Winton and is currently represented by GALA Gallery Rockhampton.