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Esther Stewart‘s work mines the endless possibilities offered by the visual language of architecture, design and geometry. In her hands, the axioms of Euclidian geometry result in new and utopian interiors that are both impenetrable and inviting. In her construction of architectural experience, Stewart’s practice extends from painting to carpets, flags, screens and sculptures, establishing a distinctive space between form and function, art and design.
Stewart’s hard-edged geometric abstractions invoke a complex genealogy of historical references, simultaneously calling upon the techniques of Islamic mosaic, Russian Suprematism and Constructivism, Victorian tile tesselations, and Neo Geo & Memphis Group design from the 1980s. This extensive visual vocabulary is harnessed to create a unique fictional space where the deliniations between two and three dimensions are collapsed and expanded, and histories and cultures are conflated.
Recently, Stewart has collaborated with architects and craftspeople to extend the spatial and material possibilties within her practice. In this new body of work created for the Melbourne Art Fair, densely patterned compositions are fractured by occasional forays into perspectival renderings. Paintings and carpets share the same vocabulary of imagery (translated into the particular material language of each medium), and occupy their own individual areas on purpose- built structures that divide the gallery’s booth into discrete zones for contemplation. The tactile carpets , which are intended as wall works, lie at on the horizontal surfaces of the coloured structures, displacing once again the standard paradigms of interior architecture.
Architect Jahani Pallasmaa writes of this fusion between image and spatial awareness: “Basic architectural experiences have a verb form rather than being nouns... of the act of entering, and not simply the visual design of the door; of looking in or out through a window, rather than the window itself as a material object; or of occupying the sphere of warmth, rather than the replace as an object of visual design.”
Esther Stewart (b. 1988 Melbourne, Australia) completed a Bachelor with First Class Honours at the Victorian College of the Arts, Melbourne in 2010, where she now lectures in the School of Sculpture and Spatial Practice. Her work has been exhibited nationally and internationally at galleries and art fairs, including at the Heide Museum of Modern Art, Melbourne and the Australian Centre for Contemporary Art (ACCA), Melbourne.
In 2015, Italian designer Valentino engaged Stewart to collaborate on the translation of her paintings into the Autumn/Winter 2015-2016 menswear collection. In 2016, Stewart was the winner of the Sir John Sulman Prize at the Art Gallery of NSW, Sydney and was commssioned to produce a new wall painting at Bendigo Hospital, which made use of her hard-edged painting compositions to recontextualise the interior architecture of the building. Stewart subsequently completed another ambitious wall mural as part of a major residential development in Sydney and a wallwork for Monash University in 2017.