Anna Liber Lewis’s artistic practice is the product of an active female resistance against the established patriarchal imagination.
Manipulating colour, medium, and shape to create artworks that come to life both visually and emotionally, Liber Lewis employs the masculine dominated field of hard-edge abstraction to redefine the representations of the female body. Commenting on her practice, Liber Lewis notes;
“It serves as a physical intelligence and makes the most sense when described in relation to the body. It’s about marks and scale and surface and form and colour and how those things affect you.”
The Space Between Us
Exploring the idea of pairing two images to compose something new, Anna Liber Lewis's latest body of work titled The Space Between Us plays with the concept of duplicity and its effect on the senses. The works in this exhibition perfectly embody Liber Lewis’s stylistic transition to the pictorial language of geometric abstraction.
Aiming to outline the complex relationship between the desire for personal autonomy and the need to establish a space for said autonomy, Liber Lewis’s visual mission materialised most strikingly through a recent subject in her work; the word NO. The word is reworked through the use of geometric order and the interplay of colour and shape, to examine the idea of control and surrender, both formally and conceptually. The large diptych, which lends its title to the show, is mirrored in the smaller works on paper, all echoing the theme of duplication, while simultaneously suggesting the remnants of a landscape or body shape.
The harmoniously balanced compositions sit on a fine line; where the balance can be tipped at any moment to create a clash or discord. The present compositions offer an image that is resolutely symmetrical and stable in the artist’s structural placement of shapes, yet also compelling in its mesmerising — almost hypnotic — colourful vortex.
Though the works are autobiographical, personal narratives are not their focal point. Instead, they are executed with a confrontational objectivity which leaves the viewer with an aftershock and eagerness to take another look. By maneuvering the logic of geometry, Liber Lewis creates a constant push and pull of focus and haze, emphasising the dichotomy between knowing what is emotion and what is intellect, what is seen and what is innately understood.
Anna Liber Lewis In Conversation
Why have you chosen painting as your medium? What is it about painting that you prefer over installations or conceptual art?
I wouldn’t say I necessarily prefer it, although there is something very sexy about painting. Painting always seems to come back to sex. I have made installations while studying at Central Saint Martins in the 90s. That’s when Conceptual Art was having another heyday. I found that painting can be conceptual.
What do you hope to evoke through this visual language of abstraction?
I’m not sure what I hope to achieve. Painting is this on-going dialogue with yourself and others. So far, the journey has been surprisingly personal for me. I enjoy the complexity of it. The push and pull of it: that you can reveal everything, but it can still be opaque. It's the ultimate freedom.
Considering the composition, how important is symmetry and the idea of balance when working with geometric abstraction?
Balance is key, even when it’s imbalanced. I work very intuitively, but I am definitely searching for something that ‘feels right’. I want my work to have simultaneously different tones or notes; maybe something that is soft but also tough for example. I sometimes try and trick myself, by constantly changing how I approach a painting to find the ‘good stuff’, the ‘difficult stuff’, the stuff that can’t be easily named, which is why I paint. You have to allow for this when making a painting; it comes out of a controlled improvisation.
What artists and movements have had the greatest influence on your work?
I think it’s almost impossible to credit all of the work that has an impact on your work. It’s taken me a really long time to acknowledge the influence growing up with my grandmother’s Ukrainian embroidery in the house as well as being exposed to Soviet posters and Russian Constructivism. My dad was a self-taught art enthusiast, he had quite conservative taste; he loved Gwen John and Turner. I remember standing in front of a Turner as a child and the penny dropped, once I saw past the subject matter.
Visiting galleries as a teenager opened me up to experiencing artwork in a visceral way. Up until then, drawing and painting had been escapism for me. Music also had a huge impact on me: growing up in London and seeing live bands perform, at quite an early age. Everything goes into the work, your whole life experience: how certain things hit you at an impressionable age, the writers you read, etc. Many of the artists, musicians and writers I was exposed to were men and I’ve always been quite interested in the idea of machismo and its various forms. I’m concerned with pulling apart binaries to uncover the complexities and contradictions involved in living and making.
Anna Liber Lewis's Studio, 2021
ABOUT THE ARTIST
Liber Lewis is a London based artist who was given a full scholarship from The Genesis Foundation to study at the RCA and graduated with an MFA in 2015. She holds a BA from Central Saint Martins. In 2017, she won the Griffin Art Prize and the Young Contemporary Talent Prize supported by the Ingram Collection. Her first London solo show ‘Muscle Memory’ at Elephant West, 2019 was followed by a second solo show at The Lightbox, Woking where she was asked to respond to a piece from the Ingram Collection; she chose a work by Eileen Agar. In 2020, she was also part of the ‘Redressing the Balance: Women Artists from the Ingram Collection; WIP’ group show at Camden Arts Centre Studio, London. In 2021, Liber Lewis was part of ‘Landscape Portrait: Now and Then’, a group show featuring artists such as Warhol, Jarman, Gilbert and George at Hestercombe Gallery, Taunton. Liber Lewis will be part of the 2021 Group Show 'Studio: Response [#1]' at Saatchi Gallery opening 18th August, London. Liber Lewis’s work is held in many private collections both in the UK and Europe, including the Miniature Museum in Amsterdam.
Chosen Charity: Cancer Research UK
Cancer Research UK is the world's leading independent charity dedicated to cancer research and awareness. Discovering new ways to prevent, diagnose and treat cancer that together have saved millions of lives across the world, the organisation’s mission is to help people reduce their risk of the disease.
“We’re enormously grateful to Anna for thinking of us. All our life-saving research is funded by the public and following the pandemic, support has never been more needed or appreciated. COVID-19 hit us hard, but we’re more focussed than ever on our ambition of seeing 3 in 4 people survive their cancer by 2034. Thanks to the generosity of its supporters, like Anna, Cancer Research UK’s work into the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of cancer has been at the heart of the progress that has seen survival in the UK double in the last 40 years.” - Lynn Daly, spokeswoman for Cancer Research UK