Key facts about the artist

Martini Bikinis: Orange, Purple, Grey
Martini Bikinis: Orange, Purple, Grey (2013)

Stephenson's work is influenced by the idea of artistic labour.
Venice Biennale
Newcastle upon Tyne
Transmission Gallery Committee Member
Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, Dundee


About Clare's work

Clare Stephenson makes highly elaborate objects and installations, which play with ideas of artistic labour. Her cut-out figures might appear at first to be sculptures but they are actually slim wooden panels onto which screen-printed images have been pasted. They are reminiscent of stage props, flat-pack design and shop-front displays. Each figure is created through a playful use of the collage process. Stephenson begins by editing and combining photographs of other sculptures, male figures from Baroque and Gothic religious statuary, until she feels they fit. The images are cut up, repeated and sometimes grossly enlarged so the image breaks up. This culminates in witty aesthetic combinations as the figures are transformed into elaborate drag queens adorned in the wardrobe of art history.

In her solo exhibitions Parole Vaine (2008) and She-who-Presents (2009) Stephenson’s figures have been shown staged in groups, poised as though characters in a tableau or play. The figures themselves strike idle, decadent or camp poses and each has a name which parodies ideas of economy, production and consumption; such as Miss Productively-Focused, Miss Quite-Quite-Abundant! and Our-Lady-of-the-Conscious-Optics (all 2008). 

In recent digital collage works, she has incorporated the ultimate symbol of aspiring decadence: the Martini glass. The exhibition Abs Minimum at the Project Room, Glasgow in July 2013 featured the Martini motif in three different fabric designs printed onto bikinis. The bikinis were strewn along the radiators and windowsills, with the redevelopment of Glasgow’s ‘Cultural Quarter’ as a backdrop seen through the gallery windows. Stephenson used her own body as a reference (the bikinis all being her size), implicating herself and relating her own production as an artist to the development outside. This work maintains an active engagement in feminist ideas, but can also be seen as a self-conscious critique of the way that certain feminist references within the art world are reduced to symbols and disengaged from active discussion.


Clare Stephenson (born 1972 in Newcastle upon Tyne) graduated with a BA in Sculpture from Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art & Design, Dundee in 1996 before serving on Glasgow’s Transmission Gallery committee. Solo exhibitions include Abs Minimum at the Project Room, Glasgow (2013), She-who-is-the-Maker-of-Objects at Linn Lühn, Düsseldorf (2011) and She-who-Presents at Spike Island, Bristol (2009). Group shows and collaborative projects include: Costume: Written Clothing, Tramway, Glasgow (2013); Boredom & Ornament, ICA, London (2012); Shoplifters, Shopgirls (with Sophie Macpherson), Tramway, Glasgow (2012); Madame Realism, Marres Centre for Contemporary Culture, Maastricht (2011); Newspeak: British Art Now, Saatchi Gallery, London (2010); and The Associates, Dundee Contemporary Arts (2009). She lives and works in Glasgow.

More information

Michael Bracewell, ‘Clare Stephenson at Spike Island, Bristol’, Frieze, issue 127, NovemberDecember 2009

Clare Stephenson, Saatchi Gallery Profile

David Musgrave, The Imaginary Critic, Dicksmith Gallery, London 2005