Stephen believes that we, in the west, have become desensitized to the suffering in conflicts around the world, especially in the middle east. This is, in part, due to our consumption of representations of conflict in the cinema, in games and on our phones. These representations frame our understanding of human violence and suffering but despite their ‘realism’ succeed only in glamourising conflict and falsifying our perceptions.
Stephen’s practice is informed by contemporary theory, in particular Jean Baudrillard’s “Simulacra and Simulations” and Judith Butler’s Frames of War”, and by the work of artists including Trevor Paglen, Omer Fast, Ian Francis and Jenny Holzer. Stephen’s paintings are ‘films’ composed from cinematic and game-like ‘frames’.
The fragility of human life is one of Stephen’s themes. He refers to the conventions of war games such as ‘point schemes, teams and missions’ where deaths represent points in a game.
‘Permeability of the zone’ is a concept drawn from Judith Butler’s “Frames of War”. This idea refers to how lives, and their value, are determined by the zones, and framed by the borders, within which they are lived.
Conflict is experienced and consumed through media representations which are simulations, but experienced as if they were reality. We have lost sight of, and connection to, the reality of such conflicts as the war in Syria and the tensions between Israel and Palestine.