Artist Karen Stewart has come full circle on her creative journey. She began her professional life as a graphic designer in the late 1980s when the scalpel, Rotring pens, steel rulers, hand-drawn type, hot-press lettering and Lettraset were all integral to studio production.
Today Karen Stewart uses these same manual techniques, combining them with fine art watercolour painting learned during her master’s degree in Botanical Illustration. While her visual language has indeed been described as ‘graphic’, it is underpinned by an activist’s message.
Stewart is fascinated by the intersection between art, politics and science – an enduring theme of her work since 2007. Focusing on the gritty street life of Cape Town, her collection Streets Ahead combines science and aesthetics, technique and cartography, building on the premise that reality can be modelled in ways that communicate spatial information effectively. Streets Ahead is a collection of personal maps of the city of Cape Town. Each hand-made paper collage relates to a specific street in the city centre, where the artist works and resides.
In response to the current global warming crisis and the drought being experienced in Cape Town, Stewart has produced The Weather Girls, a collection of paper collages created in response to how the weather affects and is integral to our survival. As city dwellers, we tend to be removed from issues like water supply – that was until the water crisis in Cape Town reached epic proportions.
The Weather Girls work is an abstract digestion of the failures and triumphs of the city of Cape Town as it worked to combat the so-called ‘Day Zero’. It seeks to focus on the issue of global warming – adding to the message many artists are bringing home to their communities about the need to act, be aware and change our lifestyles to combat water scarcity.
Sun Spots is a series where Stewart is developing the idea of global warming and how events in our solar system, like solar flares, can impact on Earth’s weather.
Stewart has always loved how cropping changes the way we see a work – each little spot becomes its own micro world which our eye can focus on within the wider context of the work.
In this series, Stewart has introduced the handmade mark and brought back watercolour work, while having ‘lots of fun playing and remaking’ original watercolour works into the new Painting series within this series of works.
Karen Stewart’s works can be viewed and purchased at Candice Berman Fine Art Gallery. Visit www.candicebermangallery.com for more info.