Thursday, October 1, 2009

drawings (from the street) at Pratt Manhattan

A shadow is a drawing created by mechanical means... not involving traditional artistic skills nor photographic mediation.

Using light and other media, I have been exploring mechanical processes in different ways (see some here, or below).

Why? Well, imagination seems vitally important as we move into an era of enormous change. Beyond the dull and restrictive commercial parameters currently keeping our world on what seems like a single-minded path (aka the fossil fuel lobbyist's dream), are astounding new possibilities. I believe that we need to think hard about what criteria we use to direct technology - after all, it is just a tool, and as we know, tools can kill you, or help you. As a society, maybe we have to decide, and make clear, which option we want.

Imagination (available to everyone) may have just as much to contribute at the end of the "oil age" as scientists in expensive research labs. I feel that by reclaiming technology from corporate control even in such small situations as are possible within my art practice, I am able to open a few doors in this area. I want to decide what technology will make for me and why - and this applies on a larger scale also.

A small loop of these shadow drawings is on show at the Pratt Manhattan Gallery, 144 West 14th Street, NYC as part of Design Jazz : Improvisations on the Urban Street - through Nov 7th.

Monday, August 31, 2009


Pierre Cordier, Chemigram 8/2/61

Just discovered chemigrams... they aren't photography because light doesn't play a part in things - they use the chemicals of photography, rather than the process. Similar to my gravitygrams - but there the process and concept of photograms are used but NOT any of the chemicals.

All these things are versions of resisting, printing and stenciling : mechanical processes - a concept developed by early manufacturers to remove craft and creativity from the actual production method. Quite fascinating to see the possible variations... and what altered goals and values allow them to arise. After all, to use these processes in unusual ways requires letting go of a commercial mindset...or does it?

Heather Lewis Two grill pans on a giclee, 2008 (gravitygram of cast iron grindings, granular rutile, acrylic medium and digital image - lots of room for variation there.)

Could a factory make intentionally arbitrary objects or patterns? I'm sure I've heard of some that do. It would be possible within certain parameters. Both physically, and more easily perhaps, digitally. Brian Eno's 70 million paintings spring to mind but I know I've seen something more interesting than that recently. (Nearest I can find right now is Fuzzy ART algorithm used to catch and AVOID minute variations in manufacturing due to flaws. Suppose it was used to create variations in areas that would not be seen as flaws?)

Heather Lewis Two ice trays, 2008, cast iron grindings and acrylic medium. Room for manufacturing variation there too.

Anyway... on a smaller scale, back in the studio...I'd like to see the chemigram used with other kinds of more direct intervention - Cordier drew or printed on the photographic paper to create a resist, in ways which are not within my area of concern. I'm thinking of chemical versions of these gravitygrams.

Heather Lewis Drawing (tape gun), 2008. Cast iron brake grindings and acrylic medium on paper.

Friday, July 31, 2009

light drawings

Feels like I've not been working much this year but I when the focus changes it can seem that way. I have been collecting light drawings like these quite consistently over the past 2 or 3 years.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

summer time

Semester is over and I've been getting through some less popular items lurking in my TO DO list. Finally got some of them out of the way and researching for my next studio immersion. Reading "The invention of capitalism" and "Insatiable is not sustainable". After all, I am heavily into manufactured products, and determinedly against the assumptions inherent in the system so it makes sense. Its all quite fascinating.

Also, coming up is an exhibition of my incarcerated students' artwork from the Spring Semester. It will be at the Ramsey Library, UNCA, reception 30 June, 6 pm. Show to run through August 6th or so. Some interesting discoveries recently in terms of alternative art - speaking of systems. Check out for some self-taught art, or outsider art in a big way. In my class I found I was trying to balance reward for self expression with that for completion of course requirements, not always easy, nor easy to justify to fellow students, even in less close quarters. Instructing someone how to "draw correctly" can feel like a tyrannical imposition. Wish there was more time to explore other avenues. It has been quite an experience.

Other things that have come out of the experience... finding these programs : (watch the video clip, or look at the prison program) and the related documentary at . Not sure where my activities are going, or even my ultimate part in it, but I will use the art shows to raise awareness of people living in another world. One in every 100 Americans is incarcerated, apparently...the highest per capita on the planet. Maybe its just me who hasn't been aware of it!

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

juror duty

Been keeping my head down and getting on with it this semester. Teaching takes up quite a chunk of time one way and another but I did manage to go to Boston for the Transcultural Exchange Conference about artist residencies. Very interesting, met people, heard a lot of stories from both applicants and organizers, got a good insight into choosing a residency that fits and how to go about funding it. Now all I have to do is complete some of those things... and when do I get into the studio? Summer time, I hope.

Just juried a student show at a local college, the Blue Ridge Community College. Images here. (Scroll down or search for BRCC). I have to say I was impressed with their art department, a very exciting student art program. As the college is 35 minutes outside Asheville, which is not really at the cutting edge of contemporary art, I wasn't expecting the informed faculty and contemporary ideas that I found there. So that was a nice surprise. Jurying a show however, is a difficult - if not impossible - task to complete entirely rationally. There were entries from all levels of students, a range of disciplines and materials. How to even begin to apply some kind of criteria to that?

There were people's first charcoal studies of a skeleton next to pinhole camera images, alongside ceramics, with conceptual sculpture, beside installation, video, iron pours... painting, digital imaging class projects, sound pieces and a light projection onto a bed. I had to go and sit quietly for a while to mull over the fact that I needed to choose the "winners". In the end, I went for resolution and eloquence over potential. I don't think my choices were expected, and I wish I'd been able to give more prizes for different things but I am fairly solidly behind what I chose. A short speech before the awards were given out helped to clarify things I hope. A lottery, yes, but only in that each juror will determine a different set of "standards". After that it is rational up to a point, except that there are about 10 other artworks that don't get mentioned even though they were hot contenders within your apparently narrowed selection!

It was really instructive to be jurying a show, in regard to sending your own work off in situations where it will be juried. Though I don't apply to juried shows, all selection processes fall under this umbrella, so it was quite fascinating. A new view of how your work may be seen.

Ok, I've got tasks today, getting gift certificates for another student show at the college I teach at, and driving to Boone, NC for the "inmate art show" benefit tonight. I have spent over 8 hours matting all the student work ... for free. Materials refunded, I hope, but the rest is...what? Sent out into the universe generously, as service, with the idea that one never knows where it will lead. Its just not a business plan the bank will consider, unfortunately!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009


Objects from a kitchen drawer, 2008, light installation.

This got a great response at the student talks
I gave in the gallery. They liked the obvious means of production (the overhead projector was easily visible), the wild enlargement of small objects, and we discussed the idea of pictorial depth within it. Some of the objects were instantly recognizable and others not... the push pin was obvious, said one. The coiled wire, the CD tray, the sink drainer all came up as familiar. Less clear were the pasta server (one of those Better Homes ingeniously forgettable inventions) and the Barbie torsos (keeping the outfits 3D in the blister packs).

A stack of shaped circles, 2008, roofing felt and gravity. 10.75 x 8 x 8 inches

This small sculpture (it is not glued or held together in any way) involves shadow rather obscurely. Being black and dense material, almost flattening itself through lack of visible detail and shading yet suggesting a small lamp introduces several interesting linkages. Alongside that is its creation via individually directed, separately produced shapes, something more common in industry. I still have areas to explore here, which is exciting.

Some g
reat feedback came from the students. One asked me whether it mattered if the artwork was not permanent, which of course led to the idea of value. If something is impermanent it seems irrelevant until one considers charging a high price for it, which suggests that someone's investment would be lost. Another student talked about the roofing felt piece, mentioning that the flat layers of my other installations had here come together to create something physical. It was really interesting to get their impressions. I wish I could have recorded all that was said. I loved seeing the degree students' work in their studios too - could have spent much more time with that than we had.

This last small work was propped up by the guest book, unframed. It didn't get much attention but I like where it might take me. Of course that is still unknown...

Shadows and paint rings, 2008, acrylic, oil and varnish on board, 7.25 x 12 inches

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Current Exhibition - influences. Installment 1

The show at the Holden Gallery has come together really well - you can see my first set of images of it at

My paintings have been bright for a few years now and I have loved the freedom to use color as I wanted to. However, darkness and light have been consistent themes in my work for over 10 years, as a scroll through old blog posts will confirm!

Aspects of my childhood can be seen in the earlier nightscapes as well as in the current light installations. Growing up in Trinidad next a huge oil refinery, there was always an orange light from the flare boom and this turned the landscape into a mysterious place of twilight and shadows - against a backdrop of thousands of lights. The boring everyday details of place were hidden, and relationships became more ambiguous. When I left Trinidad, this interest in lights went with me to the UK where I would be driving between cities at night or looking out from train windows noticing that of course, lights indicated human presence. Although light and dark depend on nature (physics relies on natural properties after all), electric light means that energy is being created and expended intentionally. The use of light and dark in my work can be seen as an engagement between human and nature, an aknowledgment that technology can be controlled to achieve various results. I choose to make art with it.

Next post, I'll look at shadows again in the context of my installations.

Meantime, here is one of those transitional images that's not on my website - it superimposes later ideas on the bones of an earlier realist work. Just realized it has a resemblance to Stapler, which IS on the website...

17 coffee filters, 2007. 28 x 30 inches, oil and spray paint on canvas.