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ARTIST UP CLOSE
Based in Kununurra at the time, Stuart
paid for the sculpture's transport himself, a
financially crippling endeavour. However, the
offer of a teaching job in Broome and the reim-
bursement of those funds paved the way for
his fiscal renaissance and a new era in his art.
ere followed exhibitions at the Art
Gallery of WA in 1985 (Graven Images) and
1986 ( e Peace Show); representation at the
International Small Scale Sculpture Triennial
in Budapest in 1987; a book on his art by Dr
David Bromfield (Fakeology, 2004); a residency
in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 04 (his third after
residencies in Mundaring and Esperance); a
Fellowship from artsWA in 2005; and a show
at Sydney's Museum of Contemporary Art
(Cross Currents) in 2007. Among more.
e 'sparky in the Pilbara' had moved
from art school student in Claremont -- "I
was very opinionated, very truculent and
not terribly subscriptive to the fashionable
mainstream left" -- to established WA artist.
His work today is in Holmes à Court, Stokes,
AGWA, Curtin, Edith Cowan University,
University of Western Australia and Bank-
West collections, plus overseas. And he's an
established lecturer, teaching at the UWA,
Claremont Art School, Curtin University and,
today, at the Midland campus of Swan TAFE.
"Humans are ideas factories and art schools,
at their best, multiply that to uncountable
levels," he says of teaching. "And sometimes,
not too often, you can be in a lecture and say
or do something that acts like a last brick in an
already substantial or precarious, but always
unique, wall. You are there and you see that
light go on. Man, it is like no other experience."
He believes there is more pressure placed
on art students these days due to the number
of private galleries that have emerged in Perth
since the mid 90s. "When I graduated from
art school in 1980... there were no commercial
galleries interested in anything other than
flogging commodities. You pretty well knew:
'An arts career? Don't make me laugh.' So,
you finished up getting a part-time job and
getting a warehouse and working in there
because you wanted to make art."
Today, he says, Perth has a "much more
appreciative establishment because it does
take its culture seriously". However, it also
dangles the carrot of a career. "If we aren't
careful, we will produce artists who want to
be 'movie stars'," says Stuart, pointing to
artists who focus on pieces that will bring in
the big bucks, rather than on making art.
ere has been no motivation other than
art in Stuart's life. He was part of the move-
ment, led by his Claremont School of Art
lecturer Tony Jones, that saw sculpture change
in WA forever ("previous to that it was all
bronze nudes"). And having come from the
bush, he had to be inventive in his materials,
learning organic ways to manipulate wood
and steel, struggling with his path from
tradie to artist, a path that continues today to
be one of discovery and creativity.
"I like to think I have gotten better at what
I do. Certainly, I am more informed, more
technically capable and more self-assured.
Never have I had the slightest doubt that
making art is what I wanted to do," he says.
"A university lecturer said to me while I was
an undergraduate: 'Sculpture is a way of
coming to know the world.' Sounded pretty
thin to me at the time, but in the decades
since, I've yet to get a better version." I
See Stuart and his art (until June 13) at the Holmes
à Court Gallery (08) 9218 4540, holmesacourt
gallery.com.au. He is represented by Turner
Galleries (08) 9227 1077, turnergalleries.com.au.
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