Thalie Stephan looks every bit the hectic artist as she clambers past the tables of Lavelli's coffee shop on Churchfield Road in Acton, hair flopping around her face, bangles jangling and a smile.
"Sorry I’m late!"
She has good reason to feel that life is a bit full tilt, with three kids under 16, a job teaching art in local schools and a solo painting exhibition that opens at 216 Acton High Street, next month. The venue for her show is a church - Oak Tree Anglican Fellowship - where she has been offered the entire three floors of the building to show her work.
"It's a brilliant space. I’m so lucky. Mark Aldridge, the minister at Oak Tree, has been wonderful to let me show there, except he doesn’t want me hammering nails into his beautiful, newly plastered walls. So I’m trying to think of ways to show the pictures without hanging them – propping them on window sills, against walls, on tables…. I could tie a couple of them to myself, how do you think that would look?"
Stephan was born in Port au Prince to a Haitian mother and a French Breton father and, as a child, lived in Haiti, Tanzania, Canada and France. She speaks five languages and studied at the Fine Arts Faculty of Concordia University in Montréal under Guido Molinari the abstract impressionist painter whose work hangs in Guggenheim Museum and Museum of Modern Art in New York.
And she has set her sights high with this Acton exhibition.
"I want to sell all the work if I can. More than 200 pieces. I'm not putting prices on anything, because I want people to pay me both what they think it's worth and also what they can afford. What’s important to me is that it will soon be hanging on people’s walls. It’s my experiment. I want to see people’s reactions to the paintings and to the idea of owning one of them."
So what are the paintings about?
"Lots of things. Being a mother and a woman. And about my faith. The paintings are not religious, but I use a lot of the iconography of faith. And I am a Christian and so there is a lot of my Christian faith there. And also a lot about identity - gender identity, family identity, cultural identity…."
And who are her role models?
"Jean-Michel Basquiat, Louise Bourgeois, Roy Lichenstein…they are my inspiration. I like to challenge taboos,' she laughs.' There are some paintings that will push the boundaries a little I think. And they are hanging in a church! But I like that. I like the contrasts and the challenges of that."
"I hope you’ll come and see it," she says tilting her head in a question, getting up to leave to go back to the puzzle of how to hang her exhibition, without putting nails in the church walls.
''Renouncing the Fear of Failure', Thalie Stephan's Solo Art Exhibition will open Friday 4th October 8-10pm; and Saturday 5th October 10am-10pm at 216 Acton High Street, W3.