Metalwork Sculpture by David Stewart

Known by many students and alumni from Central Saint Martin’s college of Art & Design, David Stewart is an inspirational senior technician, artist and teacher of large-scale metalwork. His current exhibition  Melancholia at the Arcane Gallery in Bethnal Green presents a rare opportunity to experience his vision and craftsmanship – see more details about the dates and venue at

Exhibition opening with friends and colleagues

Exhibition opening with friends and colleagues

Melancholia Woodcut by Albrecht Durer

Woodcut by Albrecht Durer

The title of the exhibition comes from a print called Melancholia by Albrecht Durer, one of the foremost artists of the Northern Renaissance. It depicts “a despondent figure of an angel surrounded by idle or abandoned tools and objects relating to architecture and geometry… these instruments reflect the creative temperament of genius attributed to Melancholy during the Renaissance…

Contrasting elements are combined in Stewart’s exhibition that explores the contradictory nature of Melancholia; organic, geological forms surrounding more grounded architectural and geometric objects. Sculptures that look like towers and reliquaries stoically safeguarding values and beliefs are beset by upheaval and doubt in the irregularly proportioned rock fall suggesting a more saturnine state of emotion.”

As a student who spent more time in David Stewart’s metal workshop than anywhere else, I became accustomed to seeing these monumental pieces of steel sculpture lying around, sometimes observing him work on one piece or another at the same time as keeping a watchful eye on his students. It was very inspirational to come into the space – full of the energy of creativity and the acrid scent of hot steel, clamorous with the high-pitched scream of grinders and cutters, blasts of welding and plasma cutting, hammering at the forge, and the background hum of the extraction system. David’s passion for the material itself is infectious – most of us students became quite addicted to the high level of energy that emanates from steel as you work it. That energy remains locked in the sculpture, and animates it.

Steel reliquary towers

Steel reliquary towers

At the same time there is a considered, structured, Apollonian quality to steel sculpture – David’s towers are constructed as symphonies of classical geometry – squares, circles and cylinders – arranged like philosophical landscapes of the intellect, reminiscent of the perspective studies of another artist of the Northern Renaissance, Jan Vredman de Vries.

The meteoric rock forms that are scattered around the structures are forged out of scrap steel, their forms reminiscent of the lumps of raw hematite (iron ore) that he brought to show us from the Florence mines in Cumbria.

There is a great variety in the finishing and colouring that David applies to his steel sculpture – all derived from the natural tendencies of the material. Some pieces are highly polished, gleaming like silver, others are heated to bring out a dark spectrum of colour – predominantly indigo and purple. Some are overlayed with areas of induced oxidation, the matt orange-red contrasting with the smooth unyielding texture of sheet steel. On some of the rocks he uses Mig-welding as a decorative feature, creating areas of surface texture as fluently as if he were drawing.


Detail of David Stewart's sculpture

Detail of David Stewart’s sculpture



The sculptural tableaux is set against the backdrop of a wall of black-and-white ink drawings.

The drawings are like an extension of the three-dimensional dream-scape created by the sculptures – precisely rendered with structured perspective, dense areas of pattern and linear techniques reminiscent of engraving, they pull the viewer in with an almost hypnotic power.

I shall finish with an image of one of the drawings – Enjoy!



If you would like to see more of David Stewart’s work, go to his website http//

Black-and-white ink drawing by David Stewart

Black-and-white ink drawing (detail) by David Stewart