Critic's London Pick: Stewart Swan's Debut at RHODES | Insight

Source Credit:  Content and images from Ocula Magazine.  Read the original article - https://ocula.com/magazine/insights/critics-must-see-london-stewart-swan-at-rhodes/

Stewart Swan’s solo show Square Go at RHODES is the young painter’s love letter to the people of Glasgow.

Critic's London Pick: Stewart Swan's Debut at RHODES

Stewart Swan in his Glasgow studio. Courtesy RHODES.

‘Glasgow never fails to provide me with endless inspiration,’ the Scottish artist says, ‘despite its gritty underbelly, a strong sense of community prevails, creating a unique atmosphere that fuels my practice.’

As Scotland’s most populous city, Glasgow has a reputation for its tough characters and a higher-than-U.K. average crime rate. Swan, who lives and works in the historic East End, has dedicated his practice to capturing subjects who embody elements of Glasgow’s identity and history: its industrial grit, strong sense of style, dry wit, and tongue-in-cheek banter.

Exhibition view: Stewart Swan, Square Go, RHODES, London (2 February–2 March 2024).

Exhibition view: Stewart Swan, Square Go, RHODES, London (2 February–2 March 2024). Courtesy RHODES.

The artist worked in an East End cafe for many years, meeting intriguing characters he ‘stored away in [his] memory bank’. Exaggerated versions, caricatures, or amalgamations of those faces find their way onto his canvases, sometimes years later.

In Swan’s artistic universe, these remembered faces regularly shapeshift into animals and deities. His anthropomorphic figures, which echo medieval bestiaries and Egyptian tomb sculptures, confront viewers with often snarling and aggressive features.

Exhibition view: Stewart Swan, Square Go, RHODES, London (2 February–2 March 2024).

Exhibition view: Stewart Swan, Square Go, RHODES, London (2 February–2 March 2024). Courtesy RHODES.

The show’s title, Square Go, references the Scottish slang for a physical confrontation, and Swan’s figures challenge viewers in an encounter that at first seems quarrelsome, but actually puts both us and the artist’s characters in vulnerable proximity with each other.

Despite their often-aggressive appearances, Swan’s figures result from tender multi-step crafting, a process which the artist describes as ‘intuitive, intense, and instinctive’. Using slow-drying oil paint, Swan approaches his compositions like a sculptor: building up layers of paint, etching and carving into the surface, and moulding the outcome.

Exhibition view: Stewart Swan, Square Go, RHODES, London (2 February–2 March 2024).

Exhibition view: Stewart Swan, Square Go, RHODES, London (2 February–2 March 2024). Courtesy RHODES.

For the portraits in Square Go, the artist has experimented with his colour palette, choosing to adopt more vibrant pastel shades that offset his characters’ oftentimes grim facial expressions.

Also included in the RHODES exhibition are repurposed objects from Swan’s studio. These objects—wooden doors and glass windows in their frames—were left by a previous tenant with instructions to reclaim them as art pieces. They soon became enveloped in the busyness of Swan’s studio, guiding his practice. The artist fondly refers to them as ‘old friends’ finally having ‘their day in the sun’.

Exhibition view: Stewart Swan, Square Go, RHODES, London (2 February–2 March 2024).

Exhibition view: Stewart Swan, Square Go, RHODES, London (2 February–2 March 2024). Courtesy RHODES.

Square Go shows Swan’s vision of his place in the world: a city populated with characters who are ancient and contemporary, human and beyond human. The exhibition is a poignant reminder of the lasting impressions we can make on one another and the significance of community. —[O]

Square Go is on view at RHODES from 2 February to 2 March 2024.

Source Credit:  Content and images from Ocula Magazine.  Read the original article - https://ocula.com/magazine/insights/critics-must-see-london-stewart-swan-at-rhodes/