A roof. A chimney. A fireplace. At first glance you might not recognise these household forms in Esther Stewart’s new series at Utopian Slumps. But it’s that kind of interior and architectural feature that are the protagonists in her latest show.
In Endless, that’s the problem – which opens at Slumps on Saturday – Stewart delves into a long-held interest in architecture and the DIY culture of the 1960s and 1970s. These come to life in a striking assembly of paintings and sculpture in which decorative finishes such as marble play a starring role.
“The process of developing this show was very much about drawing on the interior layouts of houses; of fireplaces, of rooflines and buildings,” she says of the works she produced over many months at her studio Daylesford.
For Endless, the 26-year-old artist uses a more limited palette than she did for her 2013 show Makin’ Plans. But those hallmark blocks of solid, bold colour are still on show here. Where the 2013 exhibition was specifically hung to create, “a constant geometric repetition throughout the room,” she says, “This time, especially with marble detailing that’s quite intense, I’m interested in the works having a little more space around them.”
To produce the hand-painted marble sections throughout the exhibition, Stewart enlisted the help of a friend who’s a specialist in that kind of traditional painting. “It’s an amazing process of layering,” she explains. “He’s teaching me, but it’s incredibly technical.”
The gallery is also showing a group of sculptures Stewart made prior to the painted works, which influenced the lines and shapes in the hard-edged paintings. The figures allude to chimneys and roofs and other domestic forms.
“I’m building a little house at the moment and our plasterer showed me how to do them,” says Esther. “When you see the sculptures, you can see the plains and surfaces represented in the paintings. I’m interested in the way they reference each other – in the way something 3D can become 2D.”
Endless, that’s the problem runs from Saturday July 5 until Saturday July 26 at Utopian Slumps.
Utopian Slumps Ground Floor 33 Guildford Lane, Melbourne
Hours Wed to Sat noon–5pm Other times by appointment