Stephen Lees is a satisfying artist that offers a number of avenues into his work. There’s the obvious observation that he’s a capable painter that makes refreshing and beautiful imagery, and you can simply look at the excellence and have that be enough. However, there’s more to Lees and his approach in the depths of the work – Lees is himself a student of paintings as historical practice and form. This is a kind of backgrounding to what he’s doing – which is exploring the history of painting by using techniques that are influenced by various artists from history that Lees is engaged with. These are paintings about paintings that also exist as explorations of both the landscape art form and the still life. It’s oddly post-modern in a way – the work hints at, but is not quite, using pastiche, but Lees is subtle and smart: making the art function as art is clearly important, and you don’t need to know any of this to appreciate the work – it’s just that there’s an intellectual density here that has a function: Lees is painting what he sees, but his palette uses history as well as paint.

Andrew Harper Visual Arts Tasweekend The Mercury 5-6 November 2022 p.14