Artsmith: Art expert Anthony Smith on painter Douglas Stewart
Anthony Smith looks at the art of the American painter Douglas Stewart
As you have probably realised by now, I am absolutely absorbed by art. Apart from the beauty and subject matter, it’s also the technical prowess and ability to capture a piece of fabric, a feeling between two people, an emotion, or the cold on a winter’s day. A skilful and talented artist does this and it holds me in awe.
That said, I also get great enjoyment from abstraction, but being somewhat of a pedant, I prefer works prior to 1965. Yes, an odd date I know, but for me it was a turning point in the development of abstraction and the arrival of a new movement; Pop Art.
Each successive art movement in my lifetime has opened my eyes to a new way of seeing, a new way of observing and a new way of capturing something truly magical on a two-dimensional format. I search the world for what I regard as original and technically brilliant work.
It’s my life. I enjoy it immensely and although in the vast majority of cases, it’s anticipation tinged with disappointment as I see work that initially looks interesting but on closer inspection turns out to be derivative at best or simply poorly executed.
A few years back I received an email from an artist in the US, Douglas Stewart. Douglas sent me images of his work and I immediately thought they were photographs. Not photo-realist work, but simply photographs. However, on closer inspection I realised that I was looking at some of the most brilliant, innovative and original artwork that I had ever seen. All were oils on canvas.
These were large scale works, often 48” x 48” or even larger of what appeared to be frozen TV images with the telltale “interference” many of us knew from the 1950s and 60s.
I was literally stunned; goosebump stunned.
Douglas and I emailed and he sent through more images. All of them amazing, absolutely knockout works. I was surprised that he
wasn’t well known, in fact I was staggered that his work wasn’t on everyone’s lips.
Here was an unbelievably creative and innovative artist with superb technical ability. But for Douglas, it was his hobby. Being a successful inventor and engineer, he needed an outlet and his art was that.
Needless to say, I embraced his art. So too did a prestigious art consultancy group in the US.
So why am I discussing this? Because when we are faced with art that is so innovative and so technically brilliant, we are at a significant moment in art history and I truly believe this when I look at Douglas’ works.
Please, take a look at the image. A close-up inspection shows minute pixelation, a new form of pointillism that Douglas has developed. Yet look at the result. Amazing. All done by hand. No technology involved at all.
We are witnessing such an important innovation and work of such immense quality that it is significant in art history... so much so, I just had to share this with you.
What’s on in October?
At NUA’s East Gallery: Caroline Parker “One Day this Glass will break” until October 13.
ABOVE:© Douglas Stewart Camel 48” x 48” oil on canvas