East Meets West: Bringing Landscapes to Life on Canvas

Yellow Trees, oil on canvas
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For 83-year-old James Henry Stewart, originally from Canada, growing up in a farm is what instilled in him a genuine love for nature and landscapes. When he first moved to Kuala Lumpur in the early eighties, he dabbled in watercolours and established contact with several local artists who are quite renowned today. Painting was just a hobby then as he was caught up with working life.

Now retired, James has more time to focus on his art.  His work is showcased at his first solo exhibition, East Meets West, held at the KEN Gallery in Taman Tun Dr Ismail, Kuala Lumpur, which is currently running until 13th October.

Born in small town, Richmond Hill Ontario, he lived on the family farm all his childhood and actively helped with the farm chores. James began to pick up drawing at 12 years old but later abandoned to concentrate on his career as an IT Marketing Executive. For the next 35 years he rarely undertook any artistic endeavours, but after being transferred to Malaysia in 1989, his interest in art was rekindled.

Kampungku, acrylic on canvas

Malaysia’s many shades of green and the multicoloured flora stimulated his desire to paint. His interest in local watercolour art encouraged him to have his company support local artists, with various art exhibitions. During this time he met Malaysian artist Teh Yew Kiang, who has, over the years been a continuing source of advice, guidance and encouragement. He also established contact with many other renowned local artists.

James has been an art collector for many years and his collection includes works from Malaysia, Canada, Thailand, Indonesia and Myanmar. James likes to experiment with different materials and textures as he explores abstract and impressionist styles. In addition he enjoys the challenge of traditional landscape painting. His motivation is his love of nature and the works of masters like Monet. His works can be found in private collections in, New York, Toronto, Calgary, Kuala Lumpur. and Thailand.

Three Sisters, oil on canvas

The good-natured and friendly artist said, “Nature and beautiful sights are found all around us. On our morning walks, evening strolls, or a holiday in some new place. I find beauty in old abandon farm buildings. There is a message there of a hard life, giving-up because of poor soil conditions, weather or some unknown. Some sites even have a graveyard and old implements left behind. There is a story in every site. These old farms are a thing of the past as technology obsoletes them, here is the story of a different age and time, history is told. Nature in all its forms is a miracle to enjoy. I am inspired by trees, flowers, and even weeds struggling to survive along some roadside or in a small crack in a concrete sidewalk.”

Algonquin Park Fall, oil on canvas

The self-taught artist explained that when living with his grandparents during his childhood, he learned plenty about trees.  “My grandpa was a tree lover and planted various types of trees on the farm. I have many fond memories of the things he taught me about trees. That, I think is where my interest was nurtured, and so, when I paint, the beautiful memories of him and that time of my life return. Watching the light and shadows falling on coloured leaves or across a faraway plain. Up close, the intricate formation and beauty of a leaf. These are all the things that inspire me to pick up my brush or palette knife, using oil, acrylic or watercolours. My artworks are a collection over time of my favourite places and things, whether in the tropics or some snow-covered mountains.”

Married to local popular jazz artist Rachel Guerzo and having lived here for three decades, James dubs himself an ‘adopted Malaysian’. He said, “In my retirement, instead of slowing down, I’m keeping busy with my art.”

For more information on the artist and his paintings, please e-mail [email protected].

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