May 8th to June 9th, 2018

A HAUNTING REFLECTION IN PAINT 

Studio22 Open Gallery is delighted to present HAUNTED GRAFFITI, a collection of new work by Kingston-based artist Lee Stewart. 

Large canvases set the scene for this collection of provocative narrative paintings from emerging artist Lee Stewart, demonstrating his cinematic approach to composition, both in content and form. Rarely do such varied subjects come together in a studied and cohesive body of work, and yet Stewart manages to lend his signature ability to consume and distill disparate cultural forms, from classic films and art history to folklore and pop culture, and to imbue them with something akin to reverence. 

In isolating his subjects, Stewart presses pause on his active mind and concentrates his auto-didactic artistic skills on executing paintings with minute detail and significant impact. In one of his large scale works, for example, Stewart depicts two deer, captured in a moment of stillness and vulnerability. His attention to minutiae is beautifully on display here, as the viewer begins to notice thumbnail size details emerge. The impact of the work is clear: like a camera zoom, it is a long and slow reveal. It commands the viewers attention and asks that we take the time to contemplate how moments in life reveal themselves to be far more than we initially apprehend, when we allow ourselves to be drawn in. 

In another variation on this theme, an intimate portrait of Michael Jordan crying, Stewart references popular culture, employing this snapshot of celebrity in the service of exploring a deeper reality. Here Stewart’s keen awareness of human emotion is on display; calling into question the reduction of a human life to a single moment in time which betrays the truth of their complex nature. 

The bright, often fluorescent, colour palettes of Stewart’s work suggest a manner of playfulness, which he juxtaposes with the more serious themes he explores. He is discerning, yet refreshingly able to avoid the trap of hierarchical thinking. Almost nothing escapes his gaze and consideration. A self-portrait by the artist, entitled Auto-Retrato is an amalgamation of Stewart’s own countenance in the form of Diego Valázquez, a painter from the Golden Age of Spanish painting; an auspicious synthesis which suggests a prosperous career for this young, but impressive artist. 

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