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The Urban Landscape

Art has always been a distraction from the routine formalities of everyday life for artist Hayley Stewart. When discussing the beginning of her interest in art and creativity in her early childhood, Stewart relays a vivid memory: “In school, I recall looking out [of] my math class window to drink in the textures of rustling leaves, or the inviting gleam of Victorian architectural ornateness in the sunshine. I was being drawn by something at that age, I just wasn’t sure what.” Stewart’s draw to texture and form, though seemingly unexplainable in elementary school math class, has found a bold and vivid voice in her artwork. 

Stewart studied fine art at OCAD University in Toronto, and then spent time living in B.C., in iconically beautiful spots such as Tofino and Golden, before arriving in Calgary. These vastly different spaces - Toronto, the epitome of the urban city, and Tofino, renowned for its natural beauty and environmental awareness - are integral to the artist’s work. Stewart said, “I often emulate patterns of tree roots, veins, grains, and intestine-like meanders, frequently placing them in juxtaposition with a very urban style. […] Continuously exploring new processes, techniques and mediums, I aim not only for my pieces to be aesthetically pleasing, but also to draw attention to the beautiful details in life that are sometimes overlooked.” Stewart’s mixture of the urban and the natural emphasizes what is so often forgotten when ensconced in the mundane routine of day to day city life - within the concrete sprawl, there are spots of natural beauty that are often missed.

When looking at one of Stewart’s works, it is clear that one glance will not suffice. The artist’s use of color, texture, form, and medium all combine to create a layered work to which the viewer can happily return to time and time again. In Parrot II, a parrot hovers in the foreground, wings boldly outstretched, seemingly the sole subject of the painting. Upon closer inspection, it seems that the parrot is merely the prelude to the riotous play of colors, shapes and textures in the background. Shades of blue, green, pink, purple, yellow and black are found in the lines slashing across the middle of the painting, and in the different forms found on the canvas - some, clearly defined in the shape of crystals, others softly blurred into mist.

Stewart’s artwork is fluid, bold, and ephemeral. It draws the viewer in to consider the fleeting beauty in street culture, where works audaciously spray painted can be quickly altered or white-washed away, and in nature, where the cycle of life is continuously turning and changing the landscape.

Stewart is participating in the State of the Art exhibition at the Whistler Conference Centre from April 12 – 20, in conjunction with the World Ski & Snowboard Festival. You can also view her work at artstore.wssf.com or at her website, hayleystewart.com.

- Victoria Lessard

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