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Paintings with a story

British painter Alex Stewart's current exhibition of paintings entitled 'Once upon a time' at the Barefoot gallery, Colombo 3 which opened on Thursday will continue till February 27.

Alex Stewart

Some of the exhibits

When Alex Stewart first set foot in the island in 1995, he only wanted to spend a good holiday in the tropics, but destiny decreed otherwise. He paid a second visit to the island the same year to hold an exhibition of his paintings. Amazed at the response he received, he could not resist but showcase his talent at least once every two years in the country, which he confesses of being in love with.

Born in Yorkshire, England; Stewart says he was brought up in a well disciplined home, but until he was eight, he was more often ill and used painting as a hobby to keep him occupied. But when the hobby turned into a passion, he used the same art to liberate him from anything that restricted his freedom to express. He has his own studio in London, Willesden and many exhibitions to his credit.

Here are excerpts of an interview he had with Montage

Question: What inspires you to draw?

Answer: Anything and everything can inspire me to draw, I sometimes just sit at a coffee shop and I am awestruck by the dynamism many characters in the world possess. In England I have coffee with a sweeper from Poland. He is such an interesting man and who knows may be one day I will paint something related to him. I do talk to many people whenever possible. This helps me to understand that everyone has differences and they can be seen through my paintings. The tsunami in Sri Lanka way back in 2004 made me paint many incidents I encountered. It was a painful time but even that aroused my need to paint.

Q: When did you feel the need to 'Paint with a story?'

A: I was observing some children in one of my exhibitions in London. They misconstrued that the paintings being showcased had a sequence and that there was a story linked to it, I overheard them guessing and narrating their own version to one another and then alarm bells in my head started ringing. I thought that if they are thinking that there is a story behind it without any one forcing them, why shouldn't I start painting narrative? When I read or hear something, I immediately give it an image so I began applying the same technique in the reverse order and 'Paintings with a story' was born.

Q : What is contemporary art?

A: Any form of art that continues to be created during our lifetime can be called contemporary art. Especially in this day and age, we break through every convention possible. We encourage painters to break down barriers and help broaden the spectators' horizon of interpretation. Many have had Grey areas around this question but it is only another period of art that has evolved over time.

Q: What can Sri Lankan audiences expect from your visit this time?

A: 'Once upon a time' the illustrations of unwritten tales of unwritten history; is my newest exhibition of paintings. I have always felt welcome by the Sri Lankan audience who have been appreciative of my work.

I enjoy every visit that I make to the country and I have been inspired by a lot of things I see. I have ensured that they are expressed through my paintings. Sri Lankans often ask me that integral question 'What is this painting about?' So I am certain my attempt to tell a story through every painting will be a success as they have always been intrigued by the story.

There is a misconception that art exhibitions are intended only for rich people, but it is not so.

 

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