LETS BATTLE - A SOLO SHOW BY AMAR STEWART
OCTOBER 4TH 2018 | 6PM-9.30PM
523 E 12TH ST, NY
INTERVIEW BY JACLYN ROSE
Your work is full of so much detail, emotion and expressionism - can you tell me about your process? How many layers would you say per piece completes a work, how many days per layer does it take to dry?
I’d say that through this body of work I have only just discovered a process that works for me and that its does differ depending on the subject I am working on and the mood I am in. I usually lay down the grid and loosely outline the portrait I am referencing to give me a guide. I’m not so detailed with my line work because I still have that younger me being impatient and wanting to get to the paint.
From there I just lose myself (no pun intended Em) and almost go into a solid focused state. I purposely blur my vision to get certain effects in my brush strokes, switch hands from right to left. I’m a tidy painter but don’t paint traditionally, whatever that means.
In terms of layers, its so hard to say. There are some pieces where I will do 1 sitting for a few hours and it’ll just be a couple of layers, others I may spend a couple of months and just keep buildings layers. A big part depends on what I’m trying to portray in in the painting. I have found the more emotion the more paint and more layers.
How long have you been painting? How long have you been painting with oils?
I’d say in my early twenties I started to explore the idea of creating and picked up a can of spray paint by 25. From that point I messed around with every medium I could get hold of. Acrylic, chalk, aerosol, water-colors and oil. I tried oil very early on and hated it but around 6 years ago I tried again and fell for it big time. I think a big part of it had to do with patience. Working with oil is such a smooth almost soothing process and when I was in my twenties I didn’t have any direction in my work, I was just destructive and making a mess haha.
What do you listen to while painting?
I love pretty much all music. Hip-Hop has obviously influenced a lot of my work but it just depends on my flow for the day. I could be listening to Mos-Def, The Roots, Tribe, Guru then go into Jazz mode bumping Bill Evans and Pharaoh Sanders or Mini Ripperton. Im a sucker for mellow beats. Dilla, Nujabes, Jay Alpha, Kankick. These guys really get me in a zone that assists my painting perfectly, especially when it comes to details.
What influences and inspires you the most?
People are my biggest inspiration. I think thats why for so long I wanted to be a portrait artist. To capture the emotions and tell a story through a painting.
Do you paint all emotions throughout your bodies of work?
Yes. I like to have feelings in my work. I want the viewer to look into the eyes and feel something. I like to think of all my paintings as a collaboration between the subject and myself. This will probably sound deep but if you look closely enough you will see 100% of my emotions in there.
You have fought and conquered the journey of battling stage 4 Squamous Cell Carcinoma, as a force of strength. How has being a survivor of cancer influenced your journey with art? What inspired, "Let's Battle" ?
Its been an experience that has changed my whole outlook on life and massively changed my approach to my art. Whilst going through that journey I had time to really think about everything and it was a case of how can I turn something negative into a positive. I was given a second chance and with that I wanted to put everything I had into my work. Not that I wasn’t giving 100% before but sometimes something different in your life can take you down that path you’ve been searching for.
Let’s Battle is pretty much a soundtrack to my recovery. There were certain artists I would listen to to pick me up when I was at lowest and others when I was at my highest. There are a lot of people in this collection I haven’t included because I only have two hands and couldn’t paint everyone I wanted to but I will get there eventually.
What does art and music do for your soul?
It’s EVERYTHING to me. I can’t go a day without either of them. I've painted over 100 portraits of musicians and painters over the past 6 years so you could say it’s an important part of my life!
Which / who (painting) artist is your biggest influence? Who is your favorite artist? and who's work do you admire the most of legend oil painters?
I couldn’t put down 1 as there are a few but I would probably say Guru and Kendrick, DOOM and Dilla. I feel they bring a different element to the table and its the perfect vibe for me.
As for painters, Rembrandt is still the man! Talk about capturing emotions. OG right there!
Is there a particular artist's ( hip hop ) music or album that helped you get through your rough times the most? What is the album or song that is your go to? that you put on for feel good vibes while painting?
Album - Modal Soul.
Track - Horizon.
To me it’s just the perfect album. This guy was a genius and his music just blows me away every time. I grew up watching Manga and playing Final Fantasy so listening to this album takes me back to those times drawing the characters in my sketch book and listening to the backing music. I often listen to the homework edit of this track which loops for around 1hr 30 and I just paint non stop. Im listening to it right now wishing I was in the studio painting.
Who would you say is your top 3 favorite hip hop legends?
BIG, PAC, and KENDRICK
How do you decide what persona of the subject you want to represent and express the most? Is it by what part of their personality and who you identify with the most?
I think again it comes back to a collaboration between myself and the subject I'm painting. What the music does to me when I listen to it. It might be a memory I had or a feeling and I want to express that moment. Thats the beautiful thing about music, it works differently for each individual. I could never paint a portrait of Biggie and say “I’m painting B.I.G. this way because he was this type of person” because firstly I didn’t know him and secondly even if I did, it would never be an accurate portrayal of him because only he knew. I can however express my emotions through the music he made when I listen to it and thats what I do.
Do you think NYC has influenced this show? What is NYC to you?
Absolutely. NYC has always been an inspiration since I was a kid and discovered graffiti and the B-BOY movement. The culture is so strong and powerful, I feed off of it. NYC is a special place with people hustling 24-7 and again I come back to the biggest inspiration. People!
People from New York are like no other. Mad love for them!
Is there an artwork here you are most proud of? Why?
There are some standouts for me because I really explored different techniques and feels in this collection. DMX is one of them, BIG for the use of color, scale and emotion. And the Gambino piece because its a strong image with a message that is very relevant in the world we currently live in.