Jamaicanising the world with art
Art has become such an essential part of Stuart ‘Stewy’ Robertson’s life that he literally needs it to exist.
“I have grown to love art so much that I need it. I simply can’t do without painting or drawing something. In fact, if I don’t paint for too long, I start to get restless,” Robertson told Arts & Education from his base in California, United States.
“I never go anywhere without my mobile studio (sketchbook) or my computer, so if I am not making art, I am planning out new pieces or coming up with new ideas and concepts. There is always something (being created) in my head that I need to sketch out or get on canvas.”
He is hailed today as an extremely gifted artist, with several awards and accolades as testament. In 2008, he left Campion College in Jamaica and went straight into the programme at Lawrenceville School in New Jersey, US. He left there as the most outstanding art student in 2011 to begin his four-year tenure at Davidson College in North Carolina.
Last month, the 23-year-old graduated from Davidson with a bachelor of arts in studio arts, spending his time there as a steady high achiever, maintaining a 3.2 grade point average.
Known as ‘Stewy’ the artist on campus, he was consistently rated among the top visual artists at the college. In fact, in his third year at Davidson, he earned the Douglas Houchens Studio Art Award and his name was called in practically anything that had to do with art.
Making an indelible mark through his unique artistic expressions, he also did work in the international student office at the institution, responsible for designing many of the department’s posters, handbook covers and handbooks.
The Jamaican was so highly rated, that he was commissioned by the Carolinas HealthCare System Behavioral Health Hospital in Charlotte, North Carolina to do a colourful landscape mural at the hospital’s entrance. He recently completed the project, making the institution more welcoming for patients.
That was, in fact, his fourth mural, as Robertson had already done two outstanding ones on campus at Davidson. The other was done in Vysehrad, Prague, in the Czech Republic while he was there in 2013 doing a course in art and architecture.
Always having a keen interest in art and architecture, Robertson said his experience in Prague was what led him to gravitate more towards visual arts, particularly after seeing the impact and difference art made to society at large and people in general.
“It was then that art began to have a more intellectual component for me. Art is so fascinating. You can use it to change the entire reputation and mood of a place. Art can be used as an engaging tool to teach persons how to better themselves. It can be used for marketing and branding. Art can be used to change the environment; literally change the world,” he said.
“The use of art is so multi-faceted. It can be found in so many things and put to so many uses. Art really is in everything we do, it is all around us.”
In April, the art world experienced first-hand Stewy’s amazing talent when he put on a 10-day solo art exhibit at Davidson, featuring a number of his pieces, which, he said, were all a culmination of his experience, bringing out his own identity, style, and artistic interpretation.
The show was well received and earned the young artist rave reviews.
“One of the challenges was finding my own identity and uniqueness in my creations. Wanting a more heritage tone to my work, the challenge was trying to mix my experience with European art history, contemporary American culture, my African roots and combining that with my Jamaican upbringing,” Robertson said.
“So, I was mostly trying to figure out how to translate all of that into my own interpretation on canvas and present it to the public.”
He continued, “when I finally found what I was looking for, I called it global expressionism through my eyes, using very intense colours, with influences of graffiti and street art, with traditional European and African art, a dash of American flavour, all influenced by my Jamaicanism.”
Describing his brand of art as a crossbreed between realism and expressionism, the young man said he uses everyday objects that everyone will recognise.
“The colour, combination of imagery, the kind of juxtaposition of the cultures from my own experience and interpretation, all come together to form my unique style,” he said.
Stewy also dabbles in some sculpting.
Now seven years on his journey in pursuit of his dreams, Robertson said he is not yet ready to return home.
Eternally grateful for the unwavering support of his parents, Newton and Patricia Robertson, Stewy plans to do extensive travelling across the US and Europe, learning all he can, while leaving his mark as a full-time artist. After which he will pursue his master’s in fine arts.
“I want to get all the global exposure and experience I can, and one day bring it all back to Jamaica. Because I plan to eventually set up my studio at home, settle down and raise my family there,” he said.
“I also still intend to pursue architecture and design. I think it would be pretty amazing to use my own creative expression and style to design something that people will live in and occupy everyday.”
For now, Robertson heads back to North Carolina in a few months to continue some freelance work for the Children’s Theatre of Charlotte, where he is doing scene painting.