The Shock of the Now Issue 51
Featured Exhibition Text
Lewis Brander
Solo Exhibition
27th July 2022

Following hot on the heels of ‘First Light’, our recent two-person outing at Collective Ending HQ of Lewis Brander and Sonya Derviz, Lewis’ eponymous debut solo exhibition takes as its point of departure the two smallest works from that previous show, Heatwave and To Think of You, and pulls upon one particular thread of his painting practice to expand upon his series of intimate sky studies. Hearing the perhaps foreboding title of the former, it’s hard not to recall our own recent heat-obsessed existence, as we experience either the hottest summer since records began, or the coldest summer for the foreseeable future. Between a barrage of sweat-glistening thirst traps, overuse of the Hot Face emoji and plenty of 37, 38 and 39 degree Celsius stamped Instagram stories, I found myself opening every email with a muddled mix of ‘I hope you’re enjoying/managing/surviving the heat!’, unsure of each recipient’s respective perspectives. The media became a confusing combination of Met Office red weather warnings, enthusiastic encouragement to enjoy ourselves and meteorologists openly mocked for their supposedly ‘doomsday’ attitudes. As summer settles back into its customary rain showers and sunny spells, it seems like a forgotten fever dream.

Lewis’ paintings, therefore, appear perfectly apt in the aftermath of London becoming momentarily Mediterranean. At the new Soho space of young gallerist Alex Vardaxoglou, London skies are juxtaposed with fresh breaths of Athenian air in urban skyscapes that radiate warmth, recognise light pollution or promote that springtime stillness of potent potential. Many of the paintings are initiated by a period of en plein air observation, sketched straight onto the canvas to reflect the stimulus of their incentive surroundings, before being squirrelled away to the studio where they are finessed and finished, memory ultimately intermingling with those early impressions. 

The exhibition includes the artist’s first paintings on board, a sign of Lewis’s ongoing experimentation with material and medium. The reddish, pinkish pigments of Greek Sunset (after Tsarouchis), its title an hommage to the Greek modernist Yannis Tsarouchis who achieved international acclaim for his delicate depictions of soldiers and sailors engaging in same-sex relationships, emit an aridity echoing that of Mount Lycabettus, the hilltop from which Lewis would look down across his then-adopted home of Athens. Hymettus, meanwhile, portrays the mountain range that flanks the eastern edge of the city, with vibrant bands of colour in gestural sweeps and the birch backing left bare at points. During ‘First Light’ I often found myself explaining how Lewis’s paintings sit within, rather than on, their linen or flax supports, as his oils seep into the loose weave and live there. Here, however, the artist’s hand is evident for all to see, with brushstrokes exposed and pigment apparent, accumulating across the surface.