We’re thrilled with this month’s cover, painted by artist Lewis Chamberlain. I asked him how he went about it.
“Initially I thought of setting coloured objects against a grey pencil sky and, perhaps, a distant Wilmington Man made of scissors and knitting needles”, he says.
“That didn’t quite work – I felt the objects would stand out better in front of a wall with strong shadows. The theme ‘Make do and Mend’ suggested objects associated with tailoring and needlework – scissors, wool, thread etc. Things with good colours and a contrast of shapes and sizes. I’ve used the idea of suspending objects from a mobile before – I like its association with childhood and things from the past – and it seemed to work here.”
We think it’s brilliant. Strong and evocative – as is all of Lewis’s work, featuring strange perspectives, and angles, shadows, and furniture. Oh, and toys.
“I’ve always been interested in objects from childhood because they evoke strong memories and help recall the past, sometimes in an unnerving way. More mundane features – walls, doors, floorboards – can also be imbued with significance. Once something is drawn, or painted, it takes on a life of its own and becomes a part of something new”, he says.
I’m struck by his recurring palette – often creamy shades, and splashes of vivid colour (I adore the red walls in Things That Go). “My palette has never really changed”, he says. “I’m using the same colours I used at art school in the 1980s”. This he explains as “partly down to my surroundings. I’ve always preferred working in old rooms in artificial light where the walls reveal something of their past – cracks, stains and discolouration”. He also emphasises that, although his palette includes subdued tones, “colour is actually hugely important to me. I do use bright colour, just in specific areas and with a little restraint. Looking out of my window right now the world is a mass of indistinct greyish brown and dark green, with one row of brightly coloured clothes pegs…”
I ask if he thinks of his work as dark, or spooky (Toy Story meets Edward Hopper)? “Not overtly. But I hope it has edge – a feeling of uncertainty – to prompt the viewer to question what they’re looking at, and why. Any artwork should draw people in, I think: encourage you to look again.
Without holding to a specific narrative, I want to create the sense that something is happening, or about to happen, without explaining what. I like a strong sense of atmosphere.”
Originally from Hull, and then London – Lewis studied at the Slade – today he lives and works in Newick. He does drawings, and (mostly oil) paintings. “Although I enjoy painting, drawing is probably my first instinct”, he says. “At the moment, I’m concentrating on a series of pencil drawings of my daughter Alice.”
He’s worked as an artist ever since art school. “I generally concentrate on my own work, but take on commissions if they feel right. Or I need the money. Among other things, I’ve done portraits, a bit of illustration and a long, complicated series of paintings for Merchant Ivory.”