The show comprises three bodies of work, ‘Watermark Paintings’, ‘Internet Paintings’ and ‘Reflection Paintings’, each of which explores our relationship with art in the digital age -‐ specifically how we choose to view it using the tools now available to us.
Evolving from his ‘Sous Rature’ series, which saw the artist remove elements of existing works in order to give them increased significance -‐ purposefully selecting only those made by renowned painters -‐ Stephenson continues to create ‘forced collaborations‘ as a means of experimenting with our interpretation of imagery.
In Internet Paintings, Stephenson recreates well-‐known works, as seen through platforms such as Google Arts & Culture’s virtual tours. Producing ‘distorted’ versions of the originals, he highlights our capacity to accept and adapt to new technologies – often without realising what is being asked of us, or how this influences the way we look at life.
In Reflection Paintings, Stephenson works the viewer and their surroundings into existing, original pieces pieces he has purchased at auction – drawing attention to the screens that have become integral to how we now all view the world. In doing so, he again explores our relationship with art, making us once removed from it and reminding us of our own existence.
In Watermark Paintings, Stephenson takes his exploration one step further, again using bought pieces, but this time’ placing’ them behind the screen before recreating the effect of viewing them through that medium. The artist has submitted selected paintings to Shutterstock, which are uploaded to their image banks and branded – creating a visual and fiscal wall between the viewer and the art. Stephenson then imposes these watermarks back onto the original paintings. His process is an open acknowledgement and affirmation of the meta nature of the work, which now exists both in the real and virtual worlds.
Through these bodies of work Stephenson interrogates the effect that the media through which we experience art, change our relationship with it and warp the presumed intentions of the original artist. However, his paintings are not intended as critiques, rather he presents them as collaborative iterations of ever-‐evolving works of art, believing, as Leonardo Da Vinci once said, “Art is never finished, only abandoned”.
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