Kristin Stephenson


Close 20

  • 2002
  • Charcoal on paper
  • Purchased, 2002
  • 1500 x 1000mm
  • 2002/263

This drawing is part of an extraordinary series of portraits Kristin Stephenson made of her husband Steve Hollis between 2002 and 2004. He was suffering from vascular dementia, a degenerative illness, and early on they made a pact together that she would document his decline (a keen supporter of her work, he had always enjoyed being drawn). The Close works convey a complex mix of tenderness, humour and grief. Kristin moves beyond pure description, using a variety of techniques and textures to create an image that suggests both Steve’s shifting sense of self and the gradual erasure of the familiar.

(Perilous: Unheard Stories from the Collection, 6 August 2022- )

Exhibition History

earlier labels about this work
  • This charcoal drawing is part of a series of twenty-three works on paper that Kristin Hollis has done of her husband Steve. He is suffering from a degenerative illness and Hollis made a pact with him to document his decline. Her work exhibits a strong sense of the complex mix of humour, pathos and the strength of the ordinary in the face of the inevitable. Hollis’ choice of Close as the title describes how the situation the couple has to face has brought them close together. She has an accomplished drawing technique and has used it to create a work imbued with a strong sense of tenderness. Hollis was born in Edinburgh, Scotland. She graduated from the University of Reading in 1964 and came to New Zealand in 1968. She settled in Nelson. After a time spent teaching and painting, she returned to university and graduated in 1998 with a Masters of Fine Arts (Painting) from the University of Canterbury School of Fine Arts. She lives and works in Christchurch.

  • One of three large charcoal drawings (from part of a series entitled Close), depicting the artist's husband Steve. This series of work is a journey around the intimacy of Hollis's relationship with Steve, who is suffering from a degenerative illness. Rather than simply being a 'portrait project' the drawings document the dialogue/communication between them and the physical and psychological changes happening to him. He is not drawn all in the same way, the artist being 'obsessed' with drawing, explores a larger tradition and experiments with different techniques. The title of the exhibition indicates physical nearness as well as psychological closeness as well as the changes happening to Steve, revealed through the close focus of the face. As the artist says " What is happening to us is really it. Because Steve is not well, my doing this project brings into question the issue of that fine line between empathy and exposure. I did the drawings for both of us, and the viewer - to honour people by treating them honestly, letting them into your life".