Melbourne-based artist Esther Stewart has made a big impact on the Australian art scene in a relatively short period of time. At the end of her undergraduate degree she was awarded a solo exhibition at TCB, an artist-run space that she held in high esteem. That was in 2010 and Esther has exhibited every year since then. Most recently she has also seen her artworks translated into the Autumn/Winter 2015-2016 menswear collection for Valentino. A collaboration that came about after her May 2013 show at Utopian Slumps in Melbourne.

Esther's distinctive style is something that just evolved, she says. “From making folding works that referenced hard-edge paintings I gained interest and confidence to create pure paintings that relied on the quality of the form and colour to be successful,” she says. “The method of creation changes a lot - from planning and then making, in contrast to developing as I go. I think it’s clear when you look at them which ones have come from which method.” In preparation for two upcoming exhibitions Esther is currently focussed on planned works. “It means that I can explore optical effects better and use ideas from past work to inform new ones.” She’s also incorporating patterns into her designs. The works will be on show at Station Gallery in Melbourne from March 28 and First Draft in Sydney from April 1.

Which five words best describe you? Tired, excited, relaxed, nervous and happy.

How did you get your career start and what path have you taken since? I’m not sure if you ever get a specific start as an artist I think it is a series of events that help you decide what kind of artist you want to be. An important event for me was at the end of my undergraduate degree in fine art at VCA, I was awarded a solo exhibition at TCB. This was important, firstly because it is a respected and loved artist-run space and secondly because it was awarded by artist Kate Smith and Patrick Foster whom I greatly admired and still do. Peer support is probably one of the most important things for me as an artist. My career path is still developing and probably always will be so it’s difficult to know what path I am currently on. I am more focused on the now rather than the future. 

What’s the best lesson you’ve learnt along the way? Only work for people you respect and that respect you. I have also learnt that I am the best judge of what is best for my artistic practice and that it is important to stay firm to my ideals regardless of who is asking you to compromise. 

What’s your proudest career achievement? I don’t have one specific event. I am happy making work and hope to continue being an artist for the rest of my life. 

What’s been your best decision? The best decision I recently made was to build a studio with my boyfriend out of the city. It has been a great the change for us. The change from working in a small dark warehouse in the city to a large well-lit space has made us both incredibly happy and way more relaxed. 

Who inspires you? I am currently inspired by Bridget Riley, Sonia Delaunay and David Hockney. I think that as a result of studying sculpture, I am normally mostly inspired by artists that make sculpture or installation-based works. I like the way sculpture directly addresses the audience and creates a direct relationship with the body. Anne Truitt, John McCracken and Robert Mangold are artists who have interested me for a long time for their investigations into abstractions. I have always found the works of Andrea Zittel amazing and her interest in domestication has really crystallised what my work is about.   

What are you passionate about? I am passionate about exploring the unstable relationship between abstraction and representation. Through abstraction my paintings explore or sometimes reference our domestic environments. Sometimes the representation of domestic environments and plans is more overt then others. 

Which person, living or dead, would you most like to meet? Agatha Christie

What dream do you still want to fulfil? I would love to do a residency overseas.

What are you reading? As I am currently preparing for two exhibitions I am reading art reviews, interviews and critiques. At the moment I’m catching up on the Blackmail Offline publications. They are great, relaxed and offer interesting interviews with a diverse range of artists about their practices.

images courtesy of esther stewart; photography christo crocker, portrait abigail varney

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