From the series Babette Nozière. Acrylic on paper.
While still at GSA and working in the Mixed Media department led by Roger Hoare Steven created several performance pieces, the most famous being based on the life of the famous French poisoner/murderess and darling of the Surrealist
Movement Violette Nozière, its title: Poised Murder.
The piece itself had a stage set consisting of a black and white chequered floor and several portraits of Violette herself. There were three couples plus a detective in the cast and the movement was performed to a soundtrack provided by Robert Ashley’s Perfect Lives ‘The Bar’.
The couples enacted highly styled murders either strangulation, stabbing etc rearranging positions and freezing as the lights flickered on and off while the 40’s style detective (after Phillip Marlowe) complete with trench coat, Homburg hat and magnifying glass circled a running track on his hands and knees looking for clues.
For those interested in Violette’s story I recommend reading: Violette Nozière – A Story of Murder in 1930’s Paris by Sarah Maza.
It was to be a quarter of a century later that Steven decided to revisit and update this creation.
The intervening years had seen such a wealth of research: reading, visual, travel, film, music, the list is endless but the most influential at the point of this creation were the hospital of St Paul de Mausole in St Rémy (where Van Gogh had lived and worked) / Brut Art / the French literary character Fantômas by Pierre Souvestre and Marcel Allain and the films of Roman Polanski.
Already you get a glimpse into his creative process and a mind that was constantly humming with endless ideas and random connections that all make sense through the ‘Campbell Filter’.
This painting formed part of a series called ‘Babette Nozière’, a sister to the aforementioned Violette. Babette was a complete invention, Violette having been an only child. To the left of the painting is Violette herself caught in the process of unmasking the Fantômas character by pulling aside the nightgown made famous in Polanskis film Repulsion, in an attempt to save her sister Babette shown a la Catherine Deneuve, complete with blond wig just behind Fantômas.
The graffiti on the right was inspired by his interest in outsider art and art of the insane as seen on several visits to the hospital, which still operates at St Paul de Mausole in St Remy and the museum of Dr Guislain in Ghent.