Fabric panels with bold patches of colour hanging in rows in a white gallery. The grey-bordered panels have gaps between them, allowing sight-lines and movement through the foremost panels to those hanging behind. The panels are architectural in form but not rigid.
Most of the panels are divided into two broad horizontal bands of colour, both primary and pastel, with black and brown in there as well.
Each of the panels has a small patch of indigo set into its outer edge, in the form of one quadrant of a circle. It's just like the shape of doors marked on architectural drawings. In the panels the door shape overlaps the grey border, which appears both as a frame to the panels but also resembles skirting boards in a room.
Esther, the artist, who has short brown hair, a brightly patterned red shirt, tartan pants and navy sneakers, lays out her fabric panels on a black floor, unfolding each so that they fit together like a puzzle.
The indigo quadrants meet up with the edges of a central, L-shaped panel in the same colour, and the L-shaped panel itself contains a door marker at one end, this time in pink. If viewed as a floor plan, the doors of the surrounding rooms are adjoining a central, L-shaped corridor or atrium.
Esther, a young woman with brown hair bobbed just below her ears, is walking across a courtyard to an old side gate that leads to a sunny backyard with a shed in it that serves as a studio.
ESTHER: My initial response was kind of thinking about how the process of commissioning can be kind of a challenge towards including someone else's vision within my own broader practice.
In the studio, wearing a paint-spattered navy-blue cardigan over a grey dress, she flips through reference books at a workbench.
And I'm thinking about the ways that human perfection could be represented in a non-literal kind of sense.
Overlaying footage of Michelangelo's sculpture of David in a gallery is text that reads, 'In 1501 Michelangelo created a vision of human perfection. In 2019 Esther Stewart was given a commission to do the same. She had no knowledge of the commission's origin.'
Esther laughing in slow motion while standing over some of her textile-based artworks on a workbench. Then she's working at a sewing machine.
The piece that I'm currently making, I'm thinking about perfection and its concept is subjective. I'm thinking about how that can continually be brought back to the viewer and their own interpretation of human physical perfection.
Esther standing in front of her artwork - a series of hanging fabric panels.
I think that the human form is directly influenced by the spaces that it inhabits.
A scale model of a multi-storey building with glass walls on the lower level, and doors, windows and passages cut out in non-standard shapes and spaces in the interiors.
I think that when you're moving through architecture in a domestic setting he body has to directly conform to how that architecture exists.
A young woman walks between and around Esther's fabric panels hanging in a gallery.
The other thing that I'm interested in is how a viewer can then feel moving through something and there's a kind of tactility about it, there's a capacity for fabric works to swish and move. There's a direct response to your body.
The woman among the panels runs her hand across one of them, making it billow.
Then there's this space where the body dictates the architectural form, rather than the other way around.
The panels are divided into two bands of bold colour - primary colours as well as pastels, black and brown, and each has an indigo quadrant of a circle set into it like the shape of a door in architectural diagrams. One panel is L-shaped and indigo in colour.
Within this piece I'm exploring the idea of architectural standardisation and things that are kind of taken for granted as a sort of standardised size and that rigidity doesn't take into consideration the diversity of human forms inhabiting the architectural spaces.
Each of the panels hanging in sequence is bordered with grey trim.
Within this work there's a really lovely correlation between these kind of borders that look like painting frames but also, if put into different formation they reference a skirting board and so there's this kind of like flipping between it being a language of fine art and painting and then it being an architectural map-making or plan-building process.
Esther lays out the panels on a black floor so that they fit together like a puzzle, with the L-shaped indigo panel in the centre, aligning with the door-spaces on all the surrounding panels.
I think that human perfection is entirely contextual. It's designed or thought about through the environment that sort of surrounds the person and that it's highly subjective.
Text overlays the hanging panels that reads '30 emerging artists responded to the themes of the world's most iconic commissions.'
'First commissions. Online gallery now open.'
Esther folds up the panels again, stacking them in neat piles on the gallery floor.
The entire, spreading artwork packs away into one small stack of folded fabric, and Esther smooths it down before walking away.
The space has been created for something to happen 1:2 (Floor Plan)
Follow on Instagram: @esther_stewart
Esther Stewart is an Australian artist whose practice interrogates historical, social and political ideas and implications pertaining to architecture. Stewart’s paintings, sculptures, textiles, and installations aggregate art and design’s historical precedents, mapping and collating different genealogies, each representative of contextual and evolving ideologies. Her installation responds directly to the context of the Florence Academy of Fine Arts. Quite literally softening architecture, Stewart’s textile floor plan offers a counter to the rigidity traditionally associated with the construction and historicising of architecture. As a result, the installation becomes a site that is responsive to each engagement - the fabric form echoing individual movement - and thus forges pluralistic and collaborative historical narratives.
Bachelor of Fine Arts (Honours), 2010
Master of Arts and Cultural Management, 2014