There’s a good chance most readers won’t even get as far as clicking the link to this page. They’ll see the thumbnail, recognise Shutterstock‘s unmistakeable watermark logo and consider it either a poor use of imagery, theft or a think piece on a still life painting we couldn’t even find an original image of.
But it is. The watermark is actually part of a Paul Stephenson painting.
Disregard Magritte’s The Treachery of Images (1929) and consider the physical painting in front of you, as it will be in StolenSpace Gallery from tonight onwards. The grandiose frame exists, as does the canvas and its paint. However, the intentional misuse of the Shutterstock logo will perplex many photographers. Why use the addition of a tool for anti theft of digital images to a still life painting of fruit?
According to the gallery Stephenson is practising the art of ‘forced collaboration’ – also the title of the exhibition.
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.
Other work by the artist has also considered more ephemeral effect digital technology has had on imagery in the form of a facial recognition box.
The show which will feature several of Stephenson’s works opens this evening at Stolen Space Gallery in London and will remain on show until 28th August. “Shutterstock” is available for purchase for £5000-£7500.
All images used with explicit permission of the artist gallery.