The Gallery at Queen’s Park presents:
“Contention: Male Figures in Wrestling”
by Clayton Stephens
Exhibition Dates: March 2-27, 2022
Gallery Hours: Wed – Sun, 10 am – 2 pm
Recently I overheard some people saying they do art “to relax” and to “calm themselves”. I looked at them wide eyed, and responded that, quite the opposite, drawing stresses me out. Capturing the human experience has always been a struggle – a fight between the reference and my hand. For years I’ve been trying endlessly to ‘pin’ the figure onto the paper in a way that captures the essence and emotion, all the while retaining recognizability. Each drawing is not me sitting calmly. It is me vs. a photo and a round in the ring.
In an attempt to try to distance myself from that struggle, I decided to let the figures themselves be the ones struggling. The wrestlers in each drawing are stills from college wrestling videos. Each pair are frozen from actions of fighting, arm-twisting, and headlocks. Both figures are fighting confidently to win against the other. Each five-minute skirmish is purely masculine and you can see the dedication in each of their eyes to overcome their opponent. Despite this, the drawings of the stills portray a seeming embrace between the two – much like how love and hate are not so separate from each other during the process of art making, when you take the time to slow everything down.
Although seemingly the purest form of competition, in the end, wrestling seems to be much like drawing – appreciation of beauty by being in direct competition with your reference. Perhaps the desire to prove yourself against another is its own kind of beauty.
Clayton Stephens is a Canada-born artist/teacher currently residing and working in Surrey, BC. Mostly self-taught, he works mainly in pencil sketches and short prose/poetry. Inspired by the beauty and fragility of men, Clayton seeks to portray the human form with the simple complexity it deserves.
Clayton graduated from a Bachelor of Arts with a focus on Art History in 2006, and continues to be present in the artistic community. He leads workshops for teachers on Art processes, as well as runs student art shows and productions at his elementary school. Outside of work, he draws and writes poetry in evenings, and sings with the Vancouver Men’s chorus. He has also taken up quilting this calendar year.
His work has been featured in the Surrey Art Gallery and Newton Cultural Center. He currently is working on a manuscript of poetry. To see more of his work visit claytonstephensart.com.