All at Sea, in Odyssean: Topographies – Hestercombe Gallery
February 20th, 2018 by Selina Oakes

From Orkney to Hestercombe, 'Odyssean: Topographies' dismantles traditional definitions of 'place' by exposing the abstract, interconnectable qualities of the factual and the imaginary in the portrayal of topographic experience...

...Stevenson's 'All At Sea' (2017) uses storytelling to address the notion of not-belonging. Here, he reflects on his genealogy as a 'Stevenson' and assumes the identity of a lighthouse keeper. Frustrated by his distance from 'lost' ancestry, he maps out a fictional journey across an archipelago and transforms himself, both physically and psychologically, into the very object that determines his voyage – a lighthouse. Painted, head to toe, and sporting a crown of headtorches, the artist casts off in a human-sized buoy in search of another narrative, albeit remaining incased in his own, personal perception of the world.

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Quilt Cowboy, in the Art Weekender – Bristol and Bath
November 19th, 2015 by Lizzie Lloyd

Elsewhere, there were some interesting artist interventions within the cities' museum collections. Alexander Stevenson's Quilt Cowboy (2015) greeted visitors in the downstairs hallway of the house of the American Museum in Britain, near Bath.

The costume is quite literally a poster boy of the American film industry, constructed from a quilted patchwork of blown up and stitched together film posters. It stands like a suit of armour next to a film showing Stevenson himself exploring the museum while wearing the quilted costume.

In the film the cowboy's movements are comically laboured, stilted and encumbered by the quilted suit's lack of give. He is filmed drawing his quilted guns at a reflection of himself in a mirror in the museum's New Orleans room; in another scene he stands as if cheek to cheek with a statue of Abe Lincoln and later, he disappears into the distance, romantically running over the crest of a hill in the museum's grounds. But these stereotypical gestures are wittily undercut by the complete absence of physical threat or violence, the hallmarks of the classic Hollywood Western.

In the film, the quilted cowboy feels alien, much like the museum's extensive collection of American folk and decorative art itself, housed in a Georgian building and nestled in the very English Somerset landscape. He is out of place, like an anachronistic patchwork puppet, pictured as if seeing the world for the first time.

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Vstříc Divočině and Mountain, in Weather Station (Part 1)
July 16th, 2015 by Rowan Lear

Shot in a forest clearing, the artist began a series of ritualistic and ridiculous gestures by kneading and smearing his hands with soil. He goes on to writhe in leaf litter, burrow in the earthy roots of a fallen tree and stomp on stilts bearing branches on his back. With the grimacing artist kitted in hiking gear, it's an easy parody of the 'outdoor lifestyle', a leisure activity that promises proximity with nature. But the soundtrack - composed of digital growls and monstrous breathing - seemed darker, more ominous. The video was filled with odd jerky zooms, indicating an observer of this strange fauna, or perhaps turning the foolish creature's gaze back upon the watcher.

Stevenson's other work dominated in height and colour - a domed tipi cloaked in kaleidoscope robes. Like a sea swell of festival tents, 'Mountain' was decked in absurd outer layers of neon - a patchwork of pink, blue, green, orange. It was tall enough to enter, and once inside, black mesh and silver stitching enveloped the viewer like a dark cocoon. Patterned with wheels, grids and lines, conjuring crop circles, desert geoglyphs and celestial bodies, the interior recalled a previous human existence, in which the seasonal and the cyclical were attended and anticipated.

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Vstříc Divočině and Mountain, in Weather Station (Part 1)
August 20th, 2015 by Martyn Windsor

Alexander Stevenson's video piece Vstříc Divočině (translated from Czech as "towards wilderness") is set in a clearing of a forest, Stevenson begins a series of literal gestures, smearing his hands with soil, carrying branches on his back – the camera controlling our gaze shifts from tele-photo shots to close scenes of Stevenson parading around the forest. It borders the ridiculous as he attempts to become 'one with nature', but these actions are designed to fail; there is a pseudo-poetic gesture here about how disconnected we are. An intrinsic connection of man and nature is forged as Stevenson forces soil onto his skin, or more accurately humus – the layer of earth in which organic matter is recycled and which holds more organisms in a single tea spoon than there are people on the planet. Stevenson's intervention with 'nature' here is an allegory for our lost understanding of the natural world as we all depend on the first few centimeters of soil for our existence, but pay it little attention. Our continued survival is underpinned by nature at a fundamental level.

Stevenson's second work and the last we arrive at is a Noel Fielding aesthetic tipi, penetrating into the ceiling space. Large enough to enter, it is a patchwork of neon colours, bold and daring yet it only fully discloses itself once you enter the contrasting internal space. Calm, dark and celestial – the totem conceals an array of marks and symbols, tuned to a subconscious understanding that they have always been. Entering the tent-like object, one becomes enveloped in a night sky and the primordial visual language which oscillates between familiarity and obscurity.

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