Inaugural Exhibition in the New Gallery

Simon Lewty

Major Works, 1985-2010

15th September – 22nd October, 2010

simon lewty image 1simon lewty image 2simon lewty image 3simon lewty image 4simon lewty image 5simon lewty image 6simon lewty image 7simon lewty image 8

Art First is delighted to present an extraordinary body of work by Simon Lewty as the opening exhibition in the gallery’s new space in Fitzrovia. The show coincides with the publication of The Self as a Stranger (Black Dog Publishing), the first extensive monograph on Simon Lewty. A group of outstanding writers present an overview and evaluate his development over three decades.

Ian Hunt’s foreword gives a lucid account of the context in which Lewty’s art can be seen in terms of 20th Century developments and the present. He describes a recent text based work from which image as such has been banished, and where words and letters are formed in what appears to be a careful performance of a habitual handwriting.

I think it is crucial, and would argue that the surface acts as an extremely subtle formal basis for thinking about how this work both is, and is not, to be understood as writing. The surface is changed by the process of inscription, but is never reducible to the meaning of the words written on it: it seems to come before and after the words, and makes a complex and mostly unconscious or unverbalised impression on the viewer’s reception of what the work gives

In a previously unpublished essay by Stuart Morgan, written for Lewty’s 1985 Serpentine Gallery exhibition, the critic pondered the earlier large figurative drawings such as A Passage Towards Stone:

There are direct historical allusions ……. Yet the entire effect is of liberation from history. While half-human, buried forms resembling specimens from textbooks of marine biology are reminiscent of fossils, the same drawing may include the latest fashions or, in one case, a television set.

Art First’s exhibition presents work from the mid 1980’s, containing figurative elements described by Morgan, and includes landscape forms of ploughed fields, barns and shrieking mandrake roots which followed. Richly textured palimpsests and bold gatherings of graffiti appear but by 2000 all images vanish, to be evoked instead through the writing itself.