TALENTED artist Kerry Stewart has come a long way since her childhood in rural East Renfrewshire.

So much so, in fact, that her colourful creations have been exhibited in the likes of Berlin, New York and Sydney.

One look at the unique sculptures she has crafted, such as a snowbound car, identical twins and even Batman’s cape, provides a glimpse into Kerry’s creative mind.

Barrhead News: Kerry Stewart with some of her striking sculpturesKerry Stewart with some of her striking sculptures

Her body of work also includes various paintings and pieces of performance art.

“For one of my performances, I went to Japan and worked with two sisters to make songs based on their experiences of success and of failure,” 55-year-old Kerry told the Barrhead News.

“They sang their songs at different places in a public square in Tokyo.

“For another piece of work, I made a huge, very realistic swan that was swimming around a lake at night, with its head dunking around in the water, looking for something.

“I remember a person swam inside the swan and moved the head. It was one of the best things I have done. It was a beautiful and strange sight.”

Barrhead News: Creating sculptures of identical twins was twice the fun for KerryCreating sculptures of identical twins was twice the fun for Kerry

Born in Johnstone, Kerry spent most of her youth living in Uplawmoor.

She attended Uplawmoor Primary before moving on to Williamwood High and Eastwood High.

“My dad worked at Ciba Geigy, the pigment factory in Paisley, for many years when we lived in Uplawmoor,” said Kerry.

“I remember there was once a fire at the pigment factory and my dad driving off to go and see what had happened.”

Kerry left Uplawmoor to live in Sussex for a few years before coming back to Scotland to study architecture at the University of Edinburgh.

However, she soon decided to focus on her passion for the arts, leaving her architecture course after a year and graduating instead with a degree in history of art.

During her time in Edinburgh, Kerry realised she wanted to make art herself and, after graduating, moved to London to study sculpture at the prestigious Chelsea College of Art.

Barrhead News: Creating a sculpture of a cape took a high degree of skillCreating a sculpture of a cape took a high degree of skill

Still based in London, the mother-of-three is a lecturer in fine art at the University of Westminster but she visits East Renfrewshire as often as she can.

“I love going to Uplawmoor and seeing my family,” she said.

“I was back home at New Year and we had a big dinner with 22 people at my aunt and uncle’s house.”

Kerry’s latest commission will also take her ‘home’ as she works on a new artwork to mark the 90th anniversary of the Glen Cinema disaster.

Children had been enjoying a matinee movie at the Paisley cinema on December 31, 1929, when a smoking film canister caused panic.

The main exit was locked and this led to a deadly crush that left 71 children dead and more than 30 others injured.

For decades, the events of Paisley’s ‘Black Hogmanay’ remained something of a taboo topic, with many people finding the terrible tragedy too painful to talk about.

In recent years, however, there has been a concerted effort to shine a light on those dreadful events and make sure the victims are not forgotten.

Barrhead News: Kerry is working on a tribute to victims and survivors of the Glen Cinema disasterKerry is working on a tribute to victims and survivors of the Glen Cinema disaster

Kerry will work with American-born artist Rachel Lowther and community groups in the Paisley area to create a public artwork in honour of the victims and survivors.

It is sure to be an emotional experience for Kerry, who first learned of the disaster when reading about the commission, issued by Future Paisley – a programme of economic, social and physical regeneration that builds on work already done to use the town’s internationally-significant culture and heritage story to change its fortunes.

“I hope we can find a way to mark the Glen Cinema disaster that resonates both with those closely linked to the events and to those more distant,” she said.

“There are very powerful monuments to traumatic events around the world. I hope that, together, Rachel and I can achieve such a monument with this commission.

“It has such a strong reason for being made and I’m very pleased to be doing the commission together with Rachel.

“For me personally, it also means I can be in Scotland often and make work here.”

Kerry and Rachel have known each other for years, having met while they were both studying at Chelsea College of Art, but the Glen Cinema project is their first public commission as a partnership.

“We are keen to create work within communities, that speaks directly to human experience,” they said. “We intend to start the project by holding a series of workshops with different groups in Paisley, young and old, to try to understand the impacts of the disaster on the town, as it moved through time, transforming Paisley.

“We also intend to start conversations about what makes a good memorial and how tragedy can be marked with love, dignity and spirit.”
Kerry and Rachel’s artwork will be unveiled at the end of this year, with its location not yet decided.

“The exact location depends on what artwork is chosen,” said Kerry.

“It will be decided once we have been in Paisley for a while and talked to people about what they think would be a good way of marking the tragedy.

“We have a number of ideas but want to talk to people to see what they feel.”