One of my daughters has been known to remark that I sometimes find a video of artists talking about their work more interesting than the work itself. I like the strong feeling of being allowed to go back stage. I recalled her words as I passed fairly quickly through some exquisite and perplexing work in the gallery until I reached an alcove with canvases and paintings stacked against the wall. I pressed an anonymous blue light on a machine hoping for the best. The fire alarm broke out. I had a few nasty seconds until I noticed that the workmen painting the street door of Art First Gallery were prepared for the noise and remained deeply unmoved.
I stood watching Lewty being interviewed by Peter Larkin. Lewty’s work is idiosyncratic: he mixes pictures and calligraphy in a way which brings to mind English medieval illumination and our tradition of map making.
‘ You start with the desire to write, to record dreams,’ he says. But there has to be a structure. ‘You have to decide on paper size and ink and spaces and where to begin and when to end - but the rest is unfathomable’. Lewty talks of ‘listening to what you want to do’. It strikes me that this is how some people talk about meditation. ‘My mind is a very clouded place.. .you trust the enigma... something is given which comes with a sense of recognition, both strange and familiar’
The video shows in real time how he writes, including the break whenever the pen lifts from the page, so you are left with a suspended part of a word, like a bird seen from far away. You have to wait patiently until there is a stab of recognition.
What resonates with me most is when he says ‘... the words go on their own journey...I can’t decide if people read or see my work’.