MB Atrium

Threat of Extinction by Oil

Stephen H. Kawai

AbstractThe focus of my visual art practice for the last decade and a half has been mobiles (and suspended installations). Although these explorations of mass and gravity draw from a very wide variety of themes and subjects, expressions of molecular phenomena which fuse my artistic and scientific experiences have been of particular interest to me. Of the mobiles especially relevant to the theme of the Balance-Unbalance Conference, “Threat of Extinction by Oil” highlights the Far North’s vulnerability to environmental damage and climate change.

BioStephen H. Kawai was born and raised in Montréal, Canada. Obsessed with drawing from a very young age, his formal art training began as a teenager at the now-defunct MMFA School of Art and Design where he first encountered kinetic art during an outing to see the works of George Rickey. This artist’s spare and slowly moving pieces mesmerized Stephen and eventually (or inevitably) led him to the work of Alexander Calder and to reproduce the basic mobile forms. For many years, mobiles took a sideline to drawing, painting and ceramics, as well as scientific pursuits.* It was during a three-year stay in Paris in the early ’90s, the city where the art form was invented and the term “mobile” coined, that his interest in modern sculpture was rekindled. Upon returning to Montréal in 1994, he began to create mobiles in his own style, focusing on a wide range of natural materials (rock, shell, plant material, etc.) rather than the brightly coloured abstract elements typical of the work of Calder and those who emulate his style. Stephen continues to broaden his artistic scope, incorporating mobile work into installations and exploring novel means of augmenting the kinetic aspect of his creations. He also continues to draw and experiments with a range of mixed media. His work can be found in private collections throughout Canada and in Europe.

*Stephen holds degrees in biochemistry and chemistry, and will be teaching these subjects at Concordia University in the fall of 2011.