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Mirroring life

Balancing of forms, attractive use of colours and attention to detail lend Alex Stewart's works a charm


IN OUR daily life, we ignore most of the happenings that take place around us. We take these for granted as we do the gifts of sight, smell, etc. But the same things, when observed and presented in the form of art, assume a new significance. In Alex Stewart's case, they take on a deeper meaning because here is someone who almost lost his vision and was told that he did not have more than six month's to live. This was in 1990 when he was only 32.

Though painting was a hobby for this London-based artist, he gave it up in 1977. But when his health failed, and he was asked what he wanted to do most, he said "painting". Thus began his journey as an artist, one that also helped in his rehabilitation.

Entirely self-taught, his subjects are inspired by the lives of ordinary people. The challenge comes in arranging the compositions based on those scenes and choosing the colours. His paintings in water colours and oils titled "The Urban Mirror II" on show at the Apparao Galleries till November 30 deal with scenes in Delhi and Chennai.

Attention to detail

A band playing at a wedding, an auto rickshaw on the road, people walking, a stray dog, women at work... He does not indulge in light and shade for creating depth, but depends rather on perspective. The almost flat areas of bright colours give a two dimensional effect. He does not bother about differentiating the textures like the materials of the clothes, wood or metal in the band, or the wire used by the electricians to fix the serial lights. It is the balancing of forms, the attractive juxtaposition of colours and the attention to detail that lend charm to the paintings.

Comic element

In some of his works, one can see an angel moving along. Stewart says he feels a certain spiritual influence, which he gives expression to in the form of an angel. In some of the oil paintings, there is a feeling of "if only it were possible"; for instance, there is a man sitting on top of a palm tree playing the sitar. How nice it would be, if one could escape the crowd on the ground and perch oneself on a tree! Such ideas introduce a comic element to his imageries.

Stewart had his first show in India at Delhi last year and the current one is his second. He has held many shows in Sri Lanka and has been visiting that country for many years. He says every time he visits another country, he gets a greater insight into the life of the people. This helps him evolve not only as an artist but also as a person.

LAKSHMI VENKATRAMAN

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