HUW LEWIS - Living Room
A scene set in an ordinary room staging with an aged ex-boxer who is a life-sized battered puffy husk of his former prime, playing chess with a petite athletic dancer. Every last thing in the room has been created and painted by the artist- the walls, the floor, the furniture, down to every chess piece. The work reeks of honesty and care- those who know the artist when walking through the room feel that they are walking through a scaled version of the room within the cavity of his scull. The two figures sit quietly like characters of his ego- exposed, scared but doing whatever necessary to make you feel at home in their living room.
A room of one's own – Huw Lewis' Living Room installation
by Maria Poulos
Inside Huw Lewis' Living Room 2011 is a theatrical event, one that has dispensed with plot, character portrayals and logical sequence. In it you will find a non-narrative, dream-like vignette which is conceived as a picture in movement. They are also amusing and clever, but thought-provoking about those enduring themes of identity and selfhood.
Living room 2011 is home to an aged ex-boxer who is a life-sized puffy, bloated mannequin. He resides with a petit dancer, a chess set and miniature figurines. This place is familiar with recognizable objects but strangely fascinating with forms that are crudely put together and menacing. The central figure and his companions are made of fabric, synthetic materials and a whole lot of paint. The intensity of their mélange of colours and materials—efforts which are sometimes more indicative of sincerity than talent or skills—celebrates naiveté, the folkloric and the marginal.
The initial impression of this installation is playful and enticing as the elements tempt us to touch them and even play with them. We are drawn in to enjoy the ‘decorations’ before we even entertain thoughts of the sinister and macabre. Lewis draws on the Surrealists’ philosophy to awaken a place in our subconscious; Lewis cites Réne Magritte’s illusionistic imagery as an important influence. Huw Lewis’s practice is not confined to one medium but embraces painting, performance, and video. His oeuvre includes elements of world indigenous art, outsider art, expressionism, performance art, animation and film.
These figurines or menacing toys form an understanding of, and a basis to concepts of mythology. They awaken within the child the capacity to be bigger than oneself, to project into another world … The passing of childhood is usually our first contact with death. The child we once were is lost and the remnants of our childhood are the archaeological evidence or fragments of its existence (Memory). Lewis has also experimented with masks that have been described as possessing a deliberate rawness and which evoke a primal authority. They are also said to resemble ritual objects from a tribal cult, or props used by psychoanalyst to probe the darkest recesses of the collective unconsciousness.
Lewis’ Living room 2011 is both appealing in its immediacy, an embodiment of ‘otherness’. It also encapsulates an immensely political message: that art does not necessarily have to arrest us, move us, and seduce us without us taking our own steps forward to engage with it. As with clothing fashions, computer games or the doctrine of perpetual "progress", we might want art to always be ever-more flashy, clever and intense — an expectation that destroys art and artists. Lewis has sewn soft canvas props, sculptures which resemble the human body; this conception of sculpture as malleable presaged the development known as Soft art.
With colour and thread he brushes, stitches, reworks and invents musings of the macabre and magical. His works are games of ultimate fantasy, seen and whispered, yet never before holding the stage.