Viewing Room Main Site
Skip to content

Dale Lewis

Free Range

December 1, 2018 – January 5, 2019

Nino Mier Gallery is pleased to announce its first solo exhibition of new works by British artist Dale Lewis. Lewis’ monumental, debaucherous tableaux are densely packed with entangled hedonistic figures set atop claustrophobic, graphic backdrops. Characters from strippers to priests sprawl in the throes of various modern-day bacchanalia, their landscape littered with props of a riotous society: dollar bills, fast food, cocktails, diamonds, cigarettes, rodents and lingerie. Lewis’ complex handling of paint is frenzied, heavily layered and expressionistic, and although seemingly done in a manic hysteria, is ordered in a balanced rhythm of color and compositional sculptures ruled by classic art historical tenets.

These twisted scenes provide a subversive view of modern British and Western life – grotesque, acid-fueled and orgiastic yet dealing with the mundane, like the everyday bombardment of mass media and advertising, fast food addiction, urban street life, reality cable television and other tropes of commercial banality speaking to our own excess. Regardless of being deeply entrenched in modern-day imagery, Renaissance, Neoclassical, 20th Century masterpieces and various art historical canons serve as inspiration for the artist’s work. In Hollyweed, a massive female figure, a surrogate for Kim Kardashian or Anna Nicole-Smith, lounges in a barely-there bikini and fishnets, flanked by felines serving dollar bills and martinis like Manet’s Olympia. In Princes, the artist presents three dominatrix transvestites as Botticelli’s Three Graces, a cherub exchanged by a hovering half-man, half-pigeon mutant.

In addition to classical references, the paintings draw inspiration from Lewis’ experiences, often set within the larger montage of peculiarities of contemporary life. The staggering experience of watching a trashy Adonis in the swirling chaos of a gay strip club engrained in the artist’s mind a grotesque image of a man displayed like roasting meat. This inspired Gyro, where saucer-eyed old men feverishly gawk and drool, encircling an angel-eyed male nude spinning around a stripper’s pole like a kabab. Hulking tongues gravitate like erections towards the nude’s swinging phallus as money flutters down. God’s Kitchen, a densely packed scene of vagrants, borrows its complex staging from Raffaello Sanzio’s Council of the Gods, but also draws from Lewis’ tongue-and-cheek take on an impoverished and chaotic London soup kitchen ironically sandwiched between Coutts Bank and the Savoy, two pillars of British wealth and class.

Another particularly telling work, Family Bucket, shows a gluttonous picnic where a tattooed couple, their Mickey Mouse-eared child and various beastly party crashers engulf fried chicken by the mouthful. The couple juggles smoldering cigarettes and drumsticks, their bellies spill over their waistbands and their child shares with the family dog. The artist took inspiration for Family Bucket from an iconic Henry Moore sculpture of a man and woman cradling a child on display at his hometown of Harlow, Essex, which was publically installed after the second world war. It was an idyllic emblem for the hetero-normative family unit, seen as a stabilizing force crucial to British rebuilding. The sculpture was later defaced when vandals removed the child’s head – which was later rediscovered as a doorstop in a public housing flat. Lewis’ satiric version, like the marred Moore, shows the British family in ruin: distastefully clothed, marred with graffiti-like tattoos, haunted by depravity and wantonly consuming junk food.

Lewis was born in 1980 in Essex. Lewis completed a BA in Fine Art at London Guildhall in 2002, an MFA at Brighton in 2006 and graduated the Turps Studio Programme in 2015. He was the recipient of the 2016 Jerwood Painting Fellowship, and completed the Zabludowicz Residency in New York City in 2017. In spring 2018, Lewis undertook a residency at the Arsenal in Montreal. Lewis’ work features in international collections including the Saatchi Collection, David Roberts Art Foundation and the Zabludowicz Collection. Lewis lives and works in London.