Portrait of an Artist: James Stewart

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      After years of putting his creativity to work on movies like District 9 and Prince Caspian, Vancouver artist James Stewart is holding his first-ever exhibition. It is to feature a series of detailed and life-like bronze sculptures he created that reveal a keen interest in the human figure.

      Stewart has called the series Pangea, a reference to a supercontinent comprised of all of the landmass of the earth that is believed to have existed in the distant past. The show runs from September 10 to October 2 at 5 West Pender Street, Vancouver.

      The Straight reached Stewart by phone to talk about the exhibit.

      Why did you choose Pangea as the name for this series?

      It kind of just came to me actually. I think it’s a combination of stuff. Every one of these [sculptures] is kind of based on different continents and they are seemingly completely unrelated…. There seems to be nothing holding it all together just like the landmass, the continents today. There’s nothing sort of congruous about the whole thing, but there is; They were all originally one. And same sort of thing here; All these sculptures, although they’re very different, they have actually a similar message at the end of the day.

      What is that message?

      I sort of narrow it down to dignity. I think if you were to look at every one of these sculptures, in a way, they’re all people that seem to be light despite their situations. The woman carrying the sack, for example, of cocoa leafs. She’s got a huge bag on her back but you wouldn’t see. You look at her…[and] you wouldn’t say that she’s burdened by it.

      Where did the inspiration for the figures come from?

      Inspiration is kind of on a per-sculpture basis…. [with the sculpture "Hana"] I originally went out to find somebody that I could represent a place through, you know?... When you zip around and you meet people and you learn about the culture and stuff you get this feeling coming over you eventually, and how do you express that? And because our faces are so full of emotion I just felt like the best way to do that was actually through a person.

      What appealed to you about creating these figures in bronze?

      The immortality of it all. I mean I think it’s a wonderful medium. Also it keeps so much detail. It has everything there…. Bronze is this wonderful medium and also I like the weight. Some of these things are well over 200 lbs. You know you’ve done a sculpture when you take one of these home. It’s crazy. I need two people to lift one of these things…. There’s not many mediums that you can make something that’s going to last the test of time like bronze can.

      Portrait of An Artist is an ongoing feature on Straight.com that profiles local visual artists. Suggest an artist to profile in the comments section below or by sending a message via Twitter to twitter.com/thomsonstraight.