A recent art exhibition at the Full of Beans café in Pasadora Place highlighted the talents of sculptor-turned-painter Scott Swing, who delivered a powerful selection of his works. Business Editor Lindsey Turnbull sits down with the artist to find out what inspires him to create.
Acknowledging he has always possessed “a certain flair for art”, Scott Swing says it was during his high school years that he was afforded the opportunity to study a wide variety of artistic mediums through which he developed a sense of freedom to experiment with art.
“Although I did not study art at university (Anderson University in Indiana – I studied physical education) I enjoyed many aspects of art at school. While studying at university I got a job working as the art department shop assistant with the resident artist and head of the art department, Ken Ryden, a well known Midwest sculptor who works primarily in bronze. As the art department shop assistant, my responsibilities included building sculptural bases, canvas stretchers, shop furniture and display stands, assisting in setting up shows and assisting Mr Ryden in the foundry with casting. I learnt a great deal about a wide variety of artistic mediums in the four years I was with him,” he says.
Soon after graduating, Scott moved to the Cayman Islands. While Scott continued to enjoy using his artistic talents, it was not until several years later that he began to really appreciate that nature was a fertile inspiration base for his artistic endeavours.
“One morning, during a walk on the beach, I found a particularly large piece of coral that had been washed up onshore. In that piece of coral I could envision a beautiful sea turtle could be carved out of it,” he explains.
From that moment on Scott had found the perfect medium from which to create sensitive and creative sculptures, some of which form the basis for his latest art exhibition (entitled “Drift”) at Full of Beans. Brain coral is a particular favourite, the curved surface particularly conducive to carving the shape of a turtle, but Scott says he also enjoys experimenting with other corals, such as star and elkhorn, to produce a whole host of subjects, usually with a Cayman theme.
Scott is quick to point out, however, that the only coral he sculpts is dead coral that has been washed up on the beach. He says he would never touch living coral and provides anyone wishing to take his coral sculptures off island with a CITES permit allowing them to do so.
Pushing the boat out further, Scott says he also enjoys sculpting in other medium, such as wood, stone, glass, plaster, concrete and fiberglass, anything, in fact, that is sturdy enough to withstand carving. In particular, the latter has created some exciting results. One such incredibly dynamic example was on display at the Full of Beans exhibition. The, as yet untitled, piece depicts a shining bronze figure struggling to climb out of a wooden box.
“Having a background in physical education and therefore always having had a particular interest in the human form, I’ve always enjoyed sculpting pieces that represent the human body. In creating my casted pieces I use a model to create a mould out of plaster then pour in the material (in this case fibre glass) to create the sculpture,” he explains.
Scott says when creating custom castings he takes the time to meet with the individual who is seeking the sculpture, getting to know their personality and their interests. He then shapes his piece, personalised according to the individual, with striking results.
The individual in his Full of Beans piece is, he says, bursting out of the confines of their life. “The material that creates the box is significant as well,” he confirms. “It’s made out of driftwood, which symbolises the individual’s life, which has been drifting up until this point.”
But there is much more to Scott’s latest exhibition than sculptures, as he also has a wide range of textured and inventive paintings showing as well.
Scott says, “A few years ago I hurt my knee in a skiing accident. While I was recuperating I was itching to get creative but I was not physically able to sculpt. So I turned my attention to painting and have gradually worked out my own style through experimentation.”
As such, his style is heavy on texture, inviting the viewer into his tactile world of Cayman-inspired abstract art with thick paint application and precision lines and angles. Scott says he likes to think of his paintings as hanging sculptures rather than paintings.
“I love to experiment with taping off pieces of the canvas to give a sharp edge to the work,” Scott says. “This was borne from my childhood, spending time in my father’s bodyshop where we, as children, would be allowed to pull the tape off the vehicles my father was working on. We never lost the excitement at seeing the clean sharp edged end result once we had pulled off the tape!”
At the Full of Beans exhibition pure abstract works such as Turtle Grass give the viewer the impression of snorkeling through thick vegetation, with stringy and heavily dense lines barring the way, while Transition is a stark reminder of the effects of what we put into the land literally dripping through the earth’s layers, affecting the ground forever.
Other more realistic paintings still display Scott’s love of texture and vibrancy. His Surf painting (which came about from the National Gallery’s mural exercise, which he converted onto canvas), resplendent with a line of colourful surf boards, is a highly commercial piece that could easily adorn a retail unit or a surf fanatic’s home, while Chop in East End is a line of textured painted wind-driven palm trees against a backdrop of thick undergrowth that could easily be located anywhere in Cayman. Indeed, Scott says he is often loath to label his work as he enjoys allowing the viewer to draw their own conclusions as to the location and thought process behind the work.
Although his job as an Analyst keeps him busy on a full time basis, Scott is now a well-established artist in Cayman, selling his work at the Pure Art Gallery on South Church Street, as well as painting and sculpting for commissions and for exhibitions.
“Like many artists I love to use art as an outlet for emotions,” he confirms. “A good artist is able to convey those emotions through their work and connects with their audience on an emotional level. I think I achieve that in my work.”