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Once again, I find that Warrandyte is host to one of Melbourne’s most notable artists.  A quick glance at Guy Stuart’s bio reveals an exhibition history spanning 50 years. His work has been collected by pretty much every major public gallery in this country, not to mention eight regional galleries, TarraWarra Museum of Art included.

His work was recently (2007) exhibited at TWMA in an exhibition titled Bowls, Vats, Discs and Baffles. The work at its centre, Vat and Disc 3, was described by Robyn Dold, in an essay written for the exhibition, in the following way, “This extremely important painting from the TarraWarra Museum of Art Collection, around which this exhibition has been developed, is a superb example of the way Stuart was taking up a position against the New York style.”    The New York style she refers to, “…separated artistic media and reduced painting to its absolutely essential elements of paint and canvas.”  This ‘style’ potentially spelt the death of the object in art, so that,  “…the depiction of an object in space was no longer relevant.” ( Robyn Dold, Guy Stuart: 1967 – 1972, TarraWarra Museum of Art exhibition essay.)

In the 1960’s, Guy Stuart was boldly defying the international style of colour field painting. The work below is part of that series.  It sits in Guy’s living area, a reminder of his stand. He was not swayed by art movements. He  happily considers himself to be what Rick Amor calls a “heritage artist”, a painter who has constantly drawn and who through personal necessity follows his own aesthetic.

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Naturally his home is filled with more of his work.  His current paintings hark back to his adolescence, when as a young fourteen year old he travelled to Japan. While there he drew constantly, wanting to record what he was seeing in the best way he knew, through his own art. (The two works at the top of this post were done during that visit.)

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He admires Japanese calligraphy, the beauty, decisiveness and content of the rows of characters. He is also struck by the Japanese idea of ‘writing the picture’, with a brush that can move easily from the creation of a meaningful text to the visual content of picture making. Painting and drawing where ‘the mark’ is the essential element.  He often paints on an elongated canvas, replicating the format of the vertical scroll paintings from East Asia.  His mark making has developed through the years.  So that the marks have now become looser and softer than those in his earlier work…but marks all the same.

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I love the tumble of rocks and tree limbs in his most recent work, based on observations of the rising landscape of gorges. They are a tribute to Guy’s endeavour “… to abbreviate the landscape into a series of marks without getting bogged down in depiction.”  His ‘abbreviation’ of the Australian landscape takes me deep into the Australian bush, a place I have loved throughout my life.  Short of a win on Tattslotto, I will only be able to imagine what he might do with my view from the deck of Isiiad…oh how I would love to see that translated into this mark maker’s vision.

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Looking at his work, I was grateful for his early defiance.  He has an assurance in following his own aesthetic and not becoming diverted by art movements which has resulted in a lifetime of work true to his beliefs about art and life.

All work in this post is Guy Stuart ©

Guy Stuart is represented by Charles Nodrum Gallery Melbourne and Stella Downer Fine Art, Sydney.