I consider the varied facets of my practice as addressing different audiences, asking different questions, and pushing in turn at different boundaries. Conversation between these influences begins as a practical comparison and develops further as a mutual critique where it helps describe and clarify their interdependent roles. I've found this exchange consistently illuminating in revealing the qualities I want in shaping my work.
I'll briefly describe some of the work included here to give you a sense of my perspective.
The 'Black Drawings' are made from compressed charcoal, ink, acrylic paint and varnish, and as the title suggests I use degrees of layered textural blackness so that the images become concentrated, elusive and difficult to perceive from any single vantage or focal point. Pushing the viewer around like that, continually having to alter their position to access visible fragments of visual information embedded in the blackness engages them in a search for an uncertain image, one that can be held only fleetingly, in their minds eye.
1.) ''Somewhere Else'' is a collective title I've given to a series of group paintings that narrate enduring facets of journeys that I take, in some ways they resemble visual diaries.
The first set represents a 1200 mile road trip taken with friends through the midwest of the US to visit the home/museum of rock relic Elvis Presley 'Graceland' in muddy Memphis. There are a total of eighteen small oil paintings, each image is gleaned from a combination of sources; sections of videos, brochures from hotels, menus from various restaurants, postcards, and numerous photos taken by me and friends along the way.
The other larger set here stems from my visits to Beijing to teach at Tsinghua University and uses the same varied mix of visual information as source material.
In these I'm principally interested in how Painting can be used to stitch together open visual threads within a multiple collection of images. They are always displayed in an ovalish arrangement so that there is no proscribed beginning or end, the viewer is then freer to connect the images according to their preferred associations and construct their own narrative order.
2.) My paintings of figures held suspended in deep water, weightless and mute.
3.) I've included some 'mirror image paintings' of trees, of birds, of stars; repeating the gestures and marks made on one side of the painting again on the other, as a way of constructing a painting in steps: action and counteraction.
1.) ''Some of my Best Friends are Stones'' is an ongoing project, essentially an expanding collection of found stones, each with their own distinct natural marks or features that suggest at least something of an individual face (a random portrait?). I've been adding to this collection and exhibiting it in a variety of formats in different locations and discovered that I'm able to find new friends just about anywhere I go.
I'm particularly attracted to the fact that as found objects they have no material value at all, but when adopted and exhibited underline a fundamental element of 'Art' as I conceive it... to make something out of nothing, and so create an entirely new value i.e. take some dirt and make a poem with it.
2.) I make books, or rather I alter existing books using machines, my preferred machine is usually a shredder, although I have used grinders, drills and other tools and methods as well. The intention is not to destroy the book but to give it a new life, to reify it through a simple direct action and so intervene in future interpretations of the particular title in question. I have included a short video of a shredding event ''Shredded Love 101'' because the whole process is best illuminated and most effective as a live event with audience interaction. You will also find a short slideshow of the same books before they were shredded, with a sound-track, 'Love to Love You Baby' (with carrion crows).
3.) Sometimes my work and teaching coincide. The short videos ''CoCaCo'' (Coalition of California Collectors) shows the preamble to the opening of the exhibition ''To Have and to Hold'' which was the conclusion of a working seminar at CSU Stanislaus (see outline too) exploring aspects of the largely uncharted territory of local collectors and their collections. Starting from scratch our objective was to register as many local collectors as could be found and bring them together to exhibit their respective collections at the university gallery, we also used that opportunity to create an archive of interviews (see also: you tube ''To Have and to Hold'' CSU).
There were numerous benefits to this initiative, one of the most valuable was to effectively open the doors of the university gallery and invite the local community in to contribute and exhibit their collections, a valuable cooperative experience realised through direct mutual engagement; when in doubt... Go Local.
Graham Stewart studied at Camberwell School of Art, the Royal Academy Schools in London and following a Fulbright Scholarship at the School of the Art Institute of Chicago in the US. He has exhibited widely and taught at numerous art schools in the UK, the US and China including Norwich School of Art, The University of Illinois, Tsinghua University Beijing, The University of Northumbria, and California State University.