Home' Scoop Homes and Art : Insite 25 Winter 2010 Contents 78 INSITE WINTER
skies... People dropping in, the surfeit of noise,
traffic, light and hubbub, well, I lived like that
for a while, but now I find it suffocating."
It's this solitude that he guards "very
jealously", saying it gives him time to "dialogue
with his artwork". However, perhaps it's also
a learned way of living. As a three-to-four-
year-old child he contracted polio, which
left him with a chest condition and asthma
until his early teens. It meant he spent time
at home, alone, due to illness. "I missed a lot
of school, so I was always in the 'dumb' class,
but also I spent a long time on my own. Time
on your own is important for running ideas."
He grew up in isolated Gooseberry Hill
("which in the early 60s was dirt roads and
bushfires, now it's Nedlands with bumps...")
before leaving school at 16 to become a 'sparky',
then heading to the Pilbara to work in the
mines. Riding his motorbike between the
North West and Perth gave him plenty of time
with his thoughts, and instilled in him a
memory of colour. "Wildflowers on the side
of the road or the first traffic lights when you
got to Geraldton... all that colour [was a
visual shock] when you are used to living in
a spectrum that ranges from red to brown."
Because of this or maybe because his art is
laced with some form of structural history, he
works in an eroded colour, a subdued palette
of Outback hues and rust, of dust-swept
equipment and left-to-age ruins. " ere's
something about the poetics of ruins. If I were
a moneyed person in the 18th century, I'd
have a backyard full of follies," he says.
He also loves pieces of wood once used as
patterns to create machinery components.
" ey have the most intricate, fabulous
woodwork, someone has made it with
incredible precision and they cost an arm
and a leg. But the machinery it is suited to
changes... this thing goes from being precious
to baggage," he explains. "I finish up with a
lot of those things and there is something
tragically noble about them."
He is drawn to history. A major influence
was a trip to Munich in the 1980s, looking out
over a fog-bound city to see buildings that had
been bombed, then rebuilt after World War II
under Allied supervision. "It was haunting. I
still carry ghosts of Munich with me," he
says. " ey painstakingly rebuilt the town
on top of the broken stumps of the original
architecture... but the old masonry was what
I was seeing in the fog. And it was this thing
about seeing the ghost in the ruins behind the
modern Munich." He has since been intrigued
about how structures create feelings.
His work has been influenced by a series
of epiphanies or breakthroughs prior to then
and beyond. e first was when he applied a
set of investigative tools to a drawing and the
second was when he took a photograph of a
plasticine figure inside a masonite building.
Both were methods used at art school and both
are tools he uses today in his artistic process.
Two other key moments were making a
small African-informed figure in his final
year of art school in 1980, and, in 1983,
an installation, which he says took his work
to another level. "It is rare that I haven't
thought of my object work, at least, without
greater context since." Today, he remains
strongly influenced by ancient African and
Egyptian work. He says it carries with it a
'feel' of its cultural or historical significance.
He aims to emulate that with works that
have some type of nostalgia to them.
A review of his work by the late Murray
Mason in the early to mid 80s was another
turning point, with the realisation that,
"whatever I was doing, someone else whom I
did not know was taking it seriously". ey
were indeed, with Stuart's work selected for
the 1984 Australian Sculpture Triennial at the
National Gallery of Victoria.
Chess Men, 2003. LEFT Stuar t at work, prepping table works
to take into the Holmes à Court Gallery as part of his residency.
UP CLOSE ARTIST
"Humans are ideas factories and art schools, at
their best, multiply that to uncountable levels."
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