Italian Duo Sten Lex Reinvent the Stencil

Italian artist duo Sten Lex have developed an exceptional stencil-based technique that allows them to create stunning, optical artworks, that can be enlarged to cover the side of a building. Sten and Lex first met at the end of medical studies in Rome, while taking a radiology course together. They were profoundly inspired by the material potential of x-ray film, and it was during class that they first began to cut out the skeletal forms, a process which foreshadowed their current practice. On the occasion of Edward Cutler Gallery’s “Painting Show,” featuring a new Sten Lex acquisition, we had the pleasure of catching up with the artists.

Sten and Lex’s artistic careers began in 2001, when they produced their first stencils to create street art in Rome, which mainly took the form of portraits. Their current practice uses a process they call “Stencil Poster,” which developed out of an exhibition of anonymous portraits in 2010. To create works through this method, the artists adhere poster paper onto a wood panel, cut shapes out of the paper to create a stencil, paint over the entire panel, and then peel off the stencil to reveal the finished work. The artists note that this technique enables them to create works of grand dimensions, fit for building facades.

Once known as Sten & Lex, the pair changed their name to Sten Lex because they consider themselves a single artist; in their words, “Sten Lex, like first name and surname.” They explain, “the path as a duo is very complex and can be undertaken only by balances, compromises and sacrifices.” Thus, each of their works is collaborative in nature, as over time each partner has become skilled in certain aspects of their process.

The artists note: “The process was initially merely [essential] to the production of the work, over time it has become part of the work.” Inspired by the used stencil matrices, which cannot be repurposed, Sten Lex began to incorporate these forms into the final work, often displaying them alongside, or peeling them off only partially, leaving them hanging in strips. This final touch adds aesthetic intrigue, yet also gives the viewer a look into their unique process.

What’s next for Sten Lex?

The artists share that they recently have completed their first abstract stencils in 2013, and they will soon return to Shanghai with the Institute of Italian Culture for a project that is currently in progress.

We offer a selection of Sten Lex’s videos featuring the artists and their process in action.

Painting Show” is on view at Edward Cutler Gallery, Milan, Jan. 14th–Feb. 20th, 2014.

Explore more artists from Edward Cutler Gallery.