23 March - 22 April 2004
“Who speaks these lines, who writes them, who makes them visible? And to what present, past or future do they belong?”
These are the questions posed by Paul Hills in his catalogue essay for Simon Lewty’s exhibition called Episodes, in 2000. Looking at the new work in Eclipses, we may well ask the same question.
Hovering over the blocks of beautiful cursive script are drawings or markings of a new kind. They have a feel of carbon about them, but they are not brass rubbings or tracings, they are simple photocopies; a mingling of contemporary technology with what appear to be manuscripts of uncertain age. The unique, poetic content of the texts is always Lewty’s own.
Of the remarkable new work, Lewty has made these notes: “The discoveries that led to the present work began about two years ago when I came across a number of drawings I had made as a young child, between the ages of 4 and 7. They were on the inside covers and fly leaves of the nine volumes of THE NEW BOOK OF KNOWLEDGE, a sort of junior encyclopedia of which I was very fond. Looking at them was a curious encounter with the self I know I used to be — myself and yet not me. The imagery was so strange and fresh, and yet obscure in much of its intent, that it had all the impact of the ‘found’, and I knew immediately that I wanted to re-engage with it — to work with my child-self as a collaborator.
“I did this through making black and white photocopies which impose a graphic unity on different kinds of markings, translating everything into a language of varying densities of black powder on white paper. It seemed to me a process both of revelation and occultation, exposure and eclipse. I went on to investigate other ‘found’ markings on paper: a defaced farm ledger from the 1920’s; a Victorian child’s school exercise book; all compulsive material, now discarded.
“The works in the present exhibition all include writing. So much of my found material was akin to writing, occupying the same space as writing or even incorporating it, that for me it was only a short step to combine the photocopies with my own hand-written texts. To do this seemed to be to appropriate the images a stage further, enabling them to share a different context, amid the deposits of another mental energy.”
This is Lewty’s fourth major exhibition with Art First. His work is represented in museums and collections throughout this country, including the V & A, the British Museum, the Arts Council of Great Britain, key museums outside London such as Birmingham and Leeds and in the United States of America in the Ruth and Marvin Sackner Archive of Visual and Concrete poetry.
Lewty will be exhibiting in New York with Art First at 526 West 26 St, Suite 608, from 10-31 May.