With ‘She-who-is-the-Maker-of-Objects’ – her third show at Linn Lühn – Clare Stephenson continues a series of exhibitions which she initiated in 2009 at Spike Island in Bristol and at the Centre for Contemporary Art in Glasgow. This series of exhibitions centres on figurative collages constructed from photocopies of architectural details and statues; here, these collages make a brief cameo, yielding centre stage to four new sculptural assemblages.
Her last exhibition at the gallery ‘Parole Vaine’ (Vain Speech, 2008) filled the exhibition space with towering sculptural panels which were covered with screen-prints. This time, Stephenson skipped the copying stage and simply left the collages for She-who-is-the-Maker-of-Objects I-III (2011) on sheets of paper. With the sculpture She-who (speech object) (2011) – a miniature window-shutter standing vertically on a pedestal – the artist combines images and titles from her own earlier works, such as Miss-Quite-Transcendent (2009) or She-who-Presents (2009). She broke the works down into small fragmentary stripes and mounted them on wooden slats reminiscent of Venetian blinds, as if her own oeuvre could be opened and closed, appear and disappear. These fragments appear on the surface of other works in the show, too, and bring them together in a way that suggests both a branding and a leitmotif.
Yet the centrepiece was Venetian Cocktail Glasses (2011), a work that was made with Alex Pollard. The group of four sculptures look more like a series of cross-sections of XL Martini glasses, although the ‘glasses’ are made of unpainted wooden frames and filled, not with alcohol, but with rigid coloured slats, which are once again reminiscent of Venetian blinds. The cocktails – rendered in a sleek 1950s design and palette, yet toned down
by the rough finish of the wood – are half-consumed, empty, tipped to one side or fallen over, as if a party for giants had just taken place in the gallery. By contrast, Deep Fat Fryer (2011, also made with Pollard) – a ready-made appliance neatly separated into three basic parts (basin, sieve and body) – moves away from the cheap theatricality of the glasses. The dismantled fryer doesn’t look like a prop for a party of giants but rather
a functional appliance that has just been cleaned up and set out to dry.
By replicating everyday objects like cocktail glasses and by using ready-mades like fat fryers, Stephenson underscores the different production values of a fantasy world and an everyday reality. A Marxist reading – albeit with a touch of Pop – might remark on a class difference between cocktails and fast foods, between the literal tastes of the ruling class and the working class. In spite of such readings, the connection between the sculptural objects and the figurative collages remains unclear. Moving from three to two dimensions with her prints, the artist creates a kind of continuous surface which levels all differences. ‘The surface has a great future,’ Bertolt Brecht once noted. If Stephenson would shift her attention away from citing
her own past oeuvre, perhaps we’d get an idea of what is to come.
Translated by Nicholas Grindell