'And yes, all you and anyone can continue to do is discern meaning in the pattern of our living and dying. You take all this and distill the personal until it becomes the transpersonal. You show the transcendental in the most mundane. It’s not a picture of a horse but the being ness of horse. The cut out lifts it out from flat space to three dimensional consciousness. The cross cultural references from Sheriffmuir to child cowboy - we are not allowed to think it’s a picture - it’s not, nor it’s a textile pattern it's not that either. It’s an offering about the nature of being alive itself, the confusion, the precariousness, the presence. Each image is stripped of the identifying personals and stands for all. All child, all woman all beings. Elizabeth, each time I try to tell people about it, my voice goes and I want to cry. I do see your process as a profound spiritual practice working out what it means to be alive in the face of impending death.'
In his book, Camera Lucida, Roland Barthes writes: “the photograph is literally an emanation of the referent. From a real body which was there, proceed radiations which ultimately touch me, who I am here; the duration of the transmission is insignificant; the photograph of the missing person being, as Sontag (On Photography) says, the delayed rays of a star.”
This is a sentiment that resonates with Stewart who has been fascinated by her family’s photographic archive since her childhood in Ohio, sparking in her young mind not only questions about the family narrative but of the basic ingredients of life including the fleeting nature of time and our impermanence.
With old family photographs as a starting point, Elizabeth Stewart removes her subjects from their original printed or negative source. By reimagining and reprocessing the images using textiles and other media, she creates a new dreamlike setting for her subjects. Stewart explains that setting them free from the time and space in which they were originally captured feels liberating and celebratory.
Stewart likes to work on a large scale using woven material made with a computer controlled jacquard loom. The warmth and domesticity of this woven fabric feels apt with the collaged, hand stitched appliqué elements a particularly satisfying part of the process. She draws inspiration from the textile work of Louise Bourgeois, and relates especially to her ideas about stitching when she said, “The act of sewing is a process of emotional repair.”
American born Stewart has lived in the UK since 1984. She is a graduate of The Ohio State University where her art practice was performance and video based. Over the last decade she has returned to studying, making and exhibiting her art. She is a professional member of Visual Arts Scotland. Last year she showed her work with Arusha Gallery in Edinburgh, Manchester and London.