Alexander Kennedy, 'Clare Stephenson: Bandaged Heads' (The List, 585, 06/09/2007)

After a successful exhibition as part of a group show at Stirling’s Changing Room, Clare Stephenson returns to Glasgow to continue her examination of performativity and the exaggerated poses that we adopt in our everyday lives. These new sculptures and accompanying prints act as demonstrations of philosophical arguments – theatrical poses that are mirrored and expressed in the figures she stages. In the smaller gallery space, Stephenson has placed what looks like bandaged heads against the walls, four oval shapes constructed from off-cuts – shards of cheap laminate wood with tiny plywood fibres sticking through the gauze, like diminutive teeth. The intersecting triangular planes move from off-white to cream, creating an illusion of depth and a sense that the flat canvases have been wrapped. What do these comic cartoons of swollen heads conceal? If the answer is nothing, and these works are existential expositions, then they demonstrate that there is ‘no doer behind the deed’ as Nietszche would have it, no actor behind the mask. If these works are read as mirrors, then the act of covering them could refer to the ritual of veiling mirrors during the process of mourning. The Self is eternally absent. As a formalist experiment, the work could also be seen as the disfigurement, then the concealment of the figurative with the abstract. Theses themes are expanded in the larger gallery next door, where the figurative returns as a towering monstrosity constructed out of collaged body parts, skirts and folds. Two large female figures (‘Miss Verily-Existent and Miss Quite-Transcendent) created out of plywood covered in photocopies stand in camp mannequin poses, gesticulating in all directions. They demonstrate that the subject is only an illusion created through repeated actions (the multi-layered and repeated fans of black and white photocopies), falling in and out of inky darkness and creating a paper-thin surface that appears to be ‘real’. These figures reveal that Stephenson was originally trained as a sculptor, and that her philosophical enquiries and her sense of sculptural space continue to deepen.