Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 15 February 2016
Undiscovered Artists, rising stars
Australian Art Collector Issue 24, April to June 2003
Launched in 1997 Art Collector (previously Australian Art Collector) has positioned itself as the must read for art collectors in Australia, a far more commercial aspiration than, for example ARTAND Australia. Art Collector is best known for its annual feature Australia’s 50 most collectible artists. It also has as an annual feature ‘Undiscovered artists, rising stars’.
In 2003 Sonia Barron decided to include me as one of the rising stars on the basis of my two exhibitions in 2002, Use By and Transit.
I also at around the same time exhibited my ‘museum piece’ Life Fragments I at the Churchie Emerging Art Exhibition in Brisbane in May 2003, where it was mentioned as one of the finalists. My mentor at the time Helene George remarked wryly that it was out of place in an emerging art exhibition, because the art practice was too polished, that is, fully conceptualised and complete.
The publication in Australian Art Collector opened some doors and in particular led to my involvement in two Artist’s exchange portfolios with many of Australia’s foremost print makers.
Undiscovered artists, rising stars
Profile of Tony Stewart by Sonia Barron
Published in Australian Art Collector ‘Undiscovered artists, rising stars’ April to June 2003
Not all artists emerge from art schools, and as artists increasingly cross over into other disciplines, there has been a steady flow in the other direction. Tony Stewart surfaced on the Canberra art scene in 2002 in two modest exhibitions in artist-run spaces.
With a PhD in biological sciences from the Australian National University, and an impressive career in science and technology development, for Stewart to commit to making art was a late-life decision. Always interested in the visual arts, on a trip to Europe in 1975 he visited the Jeu de Paume in Paris and saw the Impressionists for the first time. This he described as an “overwhelming experience” having only seen their art in poor reproductions back in Australia.
Growing up in an air force family Stewart lived a nomadic existence as a child. Throughout his adult life he has continued to travel and take photographs. No tourist, he has spent extended periods living and working in North America, Europe, Asia and South Africa. Now in his early 50’s he has been working fulltime as an artist since 2000.
In his multi-media works, using digital photography, print and collage, Stewart has adopted the format of that ubiquitous plastic use-by tag that is found in every supermarket attached to perishable goods. Stewart relates that the idea of bread tags, “as transitory technological icons of the late twentieth century” came about from seeing a work by Peter Atkins in an exhibition at the National Gallery of Australia in 2000 in which a collection of tags was displayed.
This familiar and commonplace object, readily recognised by us all, becomes a potent metaphor for a discourse that variously addresses technology, the landscape and humanity, manifest in all its cultural diversity. Writing in The Canberra Times on Stewart’s solo exhibition Transit last October, art critic Sasha Grishin remarked: “This is a very rich and rewarding exhibition, where cutting wit is combined with an engaging intellect.”
This has been an impressive beginning. Stewart brings to his art a specialist’s knowledge of computer technology, which he intends to continue to utilise in the formalisation of future art works. A wealth of experience of many cultures and his underlying humanist concerns in our rapidly changing technological and social environment make for a heady combination.
Key words: Tony Stewart, Australian Art Collector, Art Collector, undiscovered artists, rising stars, Sonia Barron, Peter Atkins, Sasha Grishin.
Wikipedia on Australian Art Collector now known as Art Collector
Art Collector Magazine
Art Collector on Issue 24 (no longer online)