Simon Lewty
The Self as a Stranger
19th February - 3rd April, 2008


This is Simon Lewty's first solo exhibition with Art First in four years. His shift from acrylic inks and 'blocks of text, with margins justified and alignments true' as Paul Hills phrased it ('Episodes', 2000), to the softer, pencilled words covering the entire surface of the tissue paper, signals a distinct change in this new body of work.

In his catalogue essay Lewty talks of a 'field' of text, a 'drift of thought', a 'skin of writing', and from the exquisite delicacy of each surface, the subtle, ever present interweaving of palimpsests, we can sense a new relationship between physical and mental states in the drawings.

Now the words on the wall seem to rise and fall, as though breathing. As I look more closely, phrases begin to emerge. Mimicking the rhythms and patterns of speech, they wander and drift. They appeal, they suggest, they insist, they hesitate, they contradict each other and themselves, they exclaim, they cajole, they question, they point, they rejoice, they sigh. They hint at many stories, but tell none. This text is writing me, not I the text…

There are other new developments. For the first time, we have typescripts. These are by his late mother, the author Marjorie Lewty, with scribblings by Simon on their reverse. Scrap paper is often the springboard for key ideas in artists' studios, and this literary detritus is laid on tissue paper, with overlapping seams, or joins to form abstract geometries.

Lewty has always worked with fragments. Fragments of speech, of lettering and of calligraphic text or marginalia. Their dislocation in time and logic provide rich possibilities and they comprise his favourite 'ready-made'. Taking the Surrealist embrace of the ready-made to a new level within his work, Lewty has included for the first time found drawings, sometimes by children, discovered inside a discarded book or literally picked up in the street.

Pinned to the wall, these stained and abject fragments have been my companions in the studio over the months. They are so complete in themselves that I feel all I want to do is to present them by the simple process of transferring them onto another surface, sometimes slightly enlarging the image. They are a complement to the larger, more ambitious works. I love their silliness and spontaneity, their smallness and secrecy. True graphic 'others', they have presided over my daily work, their cheerful spirit a silent reminder of unknown lives.

The British Library Sound Archive of Artists' Lives has recently completed over fifty hours recording Lewty. Extracts from this, as well as readings by the artist from two text works in the show will be played during the exhibition.