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Vancouver artist Stewart captures human pride and strength in sculpture.
The movie District 9 is probably best remembered for the aliens with their lifelike and otherworldly appearance. The distinctive features and hard exterior of the creatures you saw on screen were thanks to the eye of James Stewart, a local artist who was ‘Creature Supervisor’ on the film.
5 West Pender, Vancouver
September 10 to October 2
12 p.m. to 6 p.m.
Travelling the world, documenting it through photography and creating the alien ‘Prawns’ in the award-winning District 9 are just a few of the accomplishments achieved by Vancouver-based artist James Stewart. His new exhibition Pangea, featuring eight bronze sculptures, opens September 10th here in Vancouver.
Originally from Ontario, James’ initial career choice wasn’t film or sculpture.
“I never really thought of art as a career path,” he says, “I was always told it wasn’t the safest way to go.” And so he tried to find a happy medium.
“I wanted to take my artistic sense—my sort of spare time stuff—and my business degree and make a career out of it, and advertising seemed like the only route.”
Jeri and Dahab from ‘Pangea’. (Image: James Stewart Sculpture)
The lack of job opportunities in Ontario forced James to move to Calgary where he tried to gain more experience working at a photocopy company. Unhappy with his job situation, he would sculpt during his spare time to relieve stress, all the while telling himself there had to be a way he could earn a living through his art.
His mother came to his rescue, as moms are known to do. She put him in contact with a visual effects artist she had recently met. Realizing there were opportunities that would allow him to use his artistic talent to make money, he packed up his life and moved to Vancouver to attend VFS for visual effects back in 1996.
Since then he has had the opportunity to work on blockbuster movies and visit far-reaching locations around the world for more than a decade, all the while developing his artistic talents.
“Film helped me hone my artistic skills. The 10,000-hours rule applies. I was working 10 hours a day seven days week doing visual effects. With all that practice your eye really develops.”
Chincheros and Nuweiba from ‘Pangea’. (Image: James Stewart Sculpture)
Pangea is the culmination of years of travel and an ever-evolving artistic eye. Each sculpture is a person he has met and photographed abroad. The name of the exhibit itself draws on the idea of a time when the world was physically one—something James wanted to emphasize.
“All the pieces are completely different. But between the subjects, there is a common thread: pride. When you ask someone to pose, they may not seem like they have the best circumstances, but they pose proud—like they are representing their country and culture.”
The exhibit tries to connect different people from different parts of the world, but there is one place James always feels personally connected to:
“Wherever I’ve lived or travelled, I’ve always landed back in Vancouver. This city is a portal—you have ultimate nature at our doorstep. I’ve travelled and lived in a lot of places, but this hub of Vancouver, it really is the best place in the world to live.”
You can check out James Stewart’s public exhibition of Pangea from September 10th to October 2nd.