Have a look at breadtagsagas.com! Same blog complete stories.
Breadtag Sagas ©: Author Tony, 1 September 2020
Pandemic Art Update 2020 — work in progress
I don’t know how many artists consider the process of their art and their art practice and how many never reflect upon it. When I was involved in science (biology), I was very interested in the process of how science works. Indeed, I was interested in the philosophy of science and science practice.
Most scientists, however, didn’t give a hoot about the process or philosophy of science other than learning to conduct their work as a rigorous practice that would pass muster under the peer review system. This approach didn’t have any direct negative consequences. Except in biology, I thought occasionally the gung ho approach led to an indifference to statistical processes and sometimes to poor and even wrong analysis. Most scientists, however, didn’t give a hoot about the process or philosophy of science other than learning to conduct their work as a rigorous practice that would pass muster under the peer review system. This approach didn’t have any direct negative consequences. Except in biology, I thought occasionally the gung ho approach led to an indifference to statistical processes and sometimes to poor and even wrong analysis.
With reference to art, some artists are interested in the process of how they make art and why, while others just get on with it. I naturally fit in to the former camp and because of this I tend to see some benefits, though not enough to justify any artist from changing their natural inclinations.
The benefits I see are that you are at least aware of the flow of your work and its direction. While you may not pay much attention to your process when the flow is energetic, creative and satisfying. And, you have barely enough time to make the work you are driven to create. When things change, you may be more able to understand.
You may be frustrated that things aren’t the way they used to be, but you also have the tools to analyse why. You can either accept the hiatus; or you can seek out reasons and techniques to cope with change. You are more likely to be experimental and to seek out new directions.
This is not meant to be overly philosophical, but I am interested in my own practice. For ten years, I became what I termed an accidental artist, but I was inspired by what I was doing and powered ahead without thinking more than necessary about the process. The period was creative and immensely satisfying. Then came the hiatus. I basically stopped what I had been doing and for a long time engaged in what I thought of as mucking around, including going to basic courses with my partner Denise.
More recently, I taught myself linocutting and joined a print making cooperative called Megalo in Canberra to learn how to print my works professionally. I still haven’t explored the extent of my potential relationship with Megalo Print Studio.
Also recently, I have done several more courses and joined a Thursday art group hosted by artist Jenny Manning, which I have found both inspiring and stimulating. Because of this group, I have begun to place works in exhibitions and have expanded my repertoire.
Art practice description and biography
In phase 1 of my art making I gained some critical acknowledgement.
Sonia Barron wrote in Australian Art Collector 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.
Sasha Grishin wrote in a catalogue essay in 2005:
When did the ubiquitous use-by date plastic tag, employed to fasten plastic bags with perishable produce and found in every supermarket, first appear? I don’t know, but it is a modern invention. Although it is examined closely by most of us on an almost daily basis, it is also taken for granted and it is often overlooked. Like the plastic bags themselves, the tag is accepted as a necessity, even if it adds to global pollution.
Tony Stewart is a self-taught artist who over a number of years has developed a fascination with this plastic tag, both as a symbol for globalisation and as a metaphor for a window into art and into different cultures. His initial attraction to its shape, the strange Greek π with a key hole in the middle, led to experiments with seriality. Tags were arranged like postage stamps in an album, where the slightest variation could lead to abrupt changes in the created patterns.
Subsequently he started to digitally scan in the tag shape with its encoded emblems of date and serial number and then through Adobe Photoshop he manipulated its content and the surrounding colour fields. The tag, which was previously a minor still life object, now became a potent presence, a loaded image which operated on many different levels. John Gage’s writings on colour and culture was one point of departure, Stewart’s own travels was another, as well as I suspect his training in biological sciences in which he received a PhD in 1979.
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