Stephen Conroy is one of the most prominent names to emerge after the ascendancy of contemporary Scottish figurative painting in the mid-1980s
He was born in Helensburgh, in 1964 and spent his formative years at Prince Albert Terrace. After leaving school, he enrolled at the Glasgow School of Art in 1982, completing his postgraduate studies there in 1987.
Stephen first came to the wider public attention in 1985 when the New Image Glasgow Show brought together the works of six painters all of whom had trained at the Glasgow School of Art. The group consisted of Stephen Barclay (b.1961), Steven Campbell (b.1953), Ken Currie (b.1960), Peter Howson (b.1958), Adrian Wiszniewski (b.1958) and Stephen and collectively it they were to become known as the ‘The New Glasgow Boys’. Their style of strong drawing is combined with a fertile imagination and a generally extrovert approach. The human figure is central to their work albeit fulfilling differing roles for each artist.
This show was the followed by another exhibition, The Vigorous Imagination, at the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art in 1987 and in New British Painting, which toured five American venues between 1988-90
He held a solo exhibition at Marlborough Fine Art, London, in 1989, which then toured to Manchester and Glasgow in 1992. He exhibited again at Marlborough Fine Art in 2000.
In 1986 when he entered the John Player Portrait Award and his portrait of Jonathan Miller was commissioned by the Gallery.
He is noted for his traditional drawing of elusive figures in formal poses, in both his paintings and his etchings and lithographs. A clear influence on Conroy's style is Francis Bacon. While Conroy's work is not the type of furious and fleshy twisted portraiture of Bacon, he achieves a tension and nakedness which shows the human condition at its fullest. Conroy is a figure painter and recently in both his painting and prints he has created a number of self-portraits. His masterly drawing skill is evident, and the portraits are communicative and firm. The simplicity of a stark background and a single pensive figure are all Conroy needs to create the intense and stirring images that characterize his style.
Another noted influence on Conroy is the important 20th century Scottish artist, James Cowie. The influence of Cowie is evident in Conroy's work. Conroy’s favoured subjects have often been of populated interiors. Often his subjects inhabit an airless environment, where the artist manipulates a variety of light sources. To bring out their poetic quality, Conroy chooses oblique titles, such as 'One Idea Too Many' or 'Further and Better Particulars'. James Cowie also worked in a highly self-conscious surrealist style. Conroy’s manner, like Cowie’s, clearly represents a reaction to the overly expressionist, colourist tradition in Scottish art.
Conroy's work is part of a number of public and private collections including The British Council,; Contemporary Art Society; The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York, National Portrait Gallery, Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art, Edinburgh; Scottish National Portrait Gallery, Edinburgh, Scotland; and the Whitworth Art Gallery, Manchester.
The artist still resides on the West Coast of Scotland.