Amidst the busy office chatter, the sporadic grinding of coffee beans and the whirring traffic from the street I had a tête-à-tête (is that a douchey thing to say? Yeah? OK.) with the insightful Bondi visual artist Lewie JPD.
Lewie has had what one may call a ‘been there, done that’ kind of life but I’ll leave you to discover this for yourselves at another point in time; we’re here to talk art. Lewie’s works, 28 of which are currently exhibiting in the show ‘Art Gets Me High’ at Deus Cafe, are wonderfully abstract and surreal, bright and colourful creations. You’d assume that his studio is a mad tangled space of paintbrushes, canvases and crazy coloured splatterings of paint on every surface but no, all Lewie’s recent works have been done on the app S Memo on his beloved Samsung Note. Every. Single. One. All 2000 of them. Yeah, I know, wow …
How did Lewie come to discover his new medium of artistic expression? Allow him to enlighten you; “Before Samsung released this phone and I saw they had this little pen, it was like ‘that’s cool!’ It’s like a little sketchbook and I saw what you could do with photos and colours, because I’ve been a collage artist for a long time, I thought ‘I better get one of those.’ … The first few months though, the work was definitely something you wouldn’t show people; it’s learning the grammar of what can and can’t be done. I probably didn’t do a really good image for about 3 or 4 months and it was about 6 to 8 months I started to think, ‘Well, some of these are really good.’ So it took a lot of practice. I probably did about a thousand before I got good at it. [But] it’s limited as well, the technology; compared to Photoshop—there’s a lot more you can do, and the fact that this is like a mini version, almost like a kids’ version, it’s like a toy—this is the most loved thing I’ve ever had in my life, seriously, so that’s kind of cool. It’s the meeting of technology and art and a toy.”
On further queries into his creative process, how he physically creates his works, Lewie whipped out his little pocket studio, “Basically I can show you; it’s got an app called the S memo and a little pen and basically it’s meant to be for taking notes but I use it to go further. You can import photos and do a drawing on top. I spend about 4-5 hours a day doing the images—making images … I find images in an old book and composite the two images and then draw on top … I go to libraries, and spend hours going through old books and then I just photograph stuff I like with the phone. I’ve noticed now that if I get a book of photos I can flick through it pretty quickly and know if there’s going to be any images I’m going to like; just from seeing a sample of the images— that person really has the eye or they don’t. Though sometimes it’s really good to get mundane photos, the really simple photos, and make them funky.”
God forbid Lewie ever loses his most prized possession. Knock. Knock repeatedly and aggressively on wood superstitious reader!
And why exactly is Lewie’s current exhibition entitled ‘Art Gets Me High’? Excellent question. Here’s the answer: “It’s the name of my blog … and it’s kind of a headspace … For example, I’ll sit there for two hours doing an image and then I’ll leave— I might be in a café or something, and I’ll leave and go outside and it’s really like I’m high. I’ll be looking around and thinking this is like a massive artwork to walk into—reality … It’s so cool. And I was already using ‘Art Gets Me High’ for my blog anyway so I might as well call it that because I try and match the title of my shows with where I’m at, and that’s where I’m at—that headspace.”
With Lewie’s works there’s no forethought before he begins, or during; “the images are just what come out, I don’t ever think about a look or a vibe I want to create—it just comes out. It’s just pure expression, like I’m a conduit and just channelling. Like when I imagine Jimi Hendrix with his guitar, he’s just there and it’s just coming out. And I always love watching him play guitar—not that he’s one of my favourite musicians or anything— just the way he plays guitar, it’s just pure in the moment, letting it flow— it’s something to strive for, I think.”
Incredibly, it’s only recently that Lewie has really found his means of artistic expression; where what’s in his head finds tangibility through his works; “It’s really only in this last year, by doing this, by doing so many, constantly doing them that I started to see that I was becoming so engaged by making the images, that they were actually surpassing my expectations and that’s a really great feeling; where I would look at an image and this ‘Wow, that’s good, did I do that?’—That’s a great feeling (you can hear the smile as he says this). I struggled with it, I’ve been painting for a long time on canvas, and maybe in the last three or four years I could do canvasses that I liked and that I thought were good but they weren’t going past what I thought I could do. I wasn’t being really super surprised by what I was doing and it was hitting right on the money, right where I was at was what I was making, it wasn’t going any further. And now with this, I’m able to go further. And I think it’s also to do with the quantity … You know the thing about 10 000 hours? (No …) If you do 10 000 hours of anything you master it … So, I think with the image making, my works on canvas for example, over 30 years, I’ve probably done 500 paintings on canvas and in the last year with this, I’ve done over 2000.”
As you’d deduce a lot of Lewie’s works are influenced by surrealism and the abstract and it’s easy to see why; “They [the Surrealists] were fun. They’re trying to see reality from different angles and also take you mentally to a different dimension. I’ve always liked that idea of other dimensions and other worlds, and that you can potentially access other words from this world, but you need to try and do it, and that’s what that art (surrealism) is. They are trying to access those other worlds within our own psyches.”
With his current show still running Lewie’s already thinking about his next project. Will Lewie care to tell us the hush-hush details of this exciting new venture? “Yeah, no I can’t tell you … No, I’m kidding. It’s basically to integrate more with performance as well … I’ve done spoken word performance and monologues, so I’d like to work with other people and use the artwork as part of a performance/presentation. I won’t say exactly how it is … Once you get the idea for the new thing things start to fall into place towards it becoming real. I’m on the lookout for the elements that I need to bring it together. I’d like to go from having shows as an artist—one guy with a show— to being part of a bigger expression with a group of people where my vision is part of that expression—”
"—For example, in the States now, when there’s a performance or a band, [the artist does] their live art on stage with the band— that’s kind of funky. So, I’d like to do some of that but also musicals, an actual show; David Hockney for example— a British artist, really fantastic; he did all the backdrops for a big London theatre production. His art creates the mood for the whole show; to use the art to create the mood and then write in the actual performances and characters and actors and have musicians help with the music, so it becomes a real world, the world of the art or the visual becomes expanded upon, so there’s actual characters inhabiting, like ‘Dali’s Bike’, there could be a character that’s all colourful like that.” I would personally love to see this happen tout suite. A real-life ‘Dali’s Bike’, heck yes!
So, there you go, we end our chat with a beginning. I always seem to gain life lessons from the more experienced or worldly, shall we say, people I talk to. And from Lewie I learnt that no matter what field you’re in, no matter what you want to do, where your passion lays, it’s all about finding what fits you; it’ll take some time and exploration to discover what exactly this is but you’ll eventually find it, but even then it’s still a matter of practice, practice, and you guessed it, pygmy marmosets …
Ten thousand hours, or so, should do it.
Photo Credit: Lui Rincon
For more info about Lewie and his artworks head to his site: www.lewiejpd.com
Check out the original piece from Warhol's Children here.