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Struik Lifestyle

@ Sunday Times Books LIVE

Dylan Lewis Launches An Untamed Force at Cape Town’s Everard Read

Dylan Lewis

Unlike his substantial and weighty bronzes, Dylan Lewis’ most recent accomplishment is made not from clay and metal but from paper, although one one could not call it lightweight. The item that drew so large a crowd to the The Everard Read Gallery in Cape Town recently was his new book, Dylan Lewis: An Untamed Force.

Dylan LewisDylan LewisCo-authored with poet, psychiatrist and nature guide Ian McCullum, this gorgeous coffee table book was recently published by Struik Lifestyle’s art book imprint, Fernwood Press.

Steve Connolly welcomed the enormous crowd to the event, and predicted that Dylan Lewis: An Untamed Force would be the South African art book of the year. He expressed his enormous delight at the images, design and production that so enhanced the book. In particular, he lauded Gerda Genis’ gorgeous photography, which brought to life the artist at work in the creation of his masterpieces.

Some 200 hundred art lovers packed into the upper room of the gallery to watch a slide presentation that accompanied Lewis’ discussion about the source of his inspiration. Recalling the experience with his family going to game farms and national parks, he pondered over whether the wilderness was perhaps an ancient familiar place stored in his genetic memory.

He spoke of how his connection with nature leaves him feeling grounded and enables his reconnection with his timeless inner self, his original being. He shifted his gaze to the internal struggle humans experience between the comfort and safety of the modern lifestyle and the risky freedom inherent in the incredible beauty of the wilderness. He believes that humankind suppresses its wild self in order to fit more snugly into the modern world of so-called civilisation.

“We are straying from our roots, becoming unmindful, and this is why so many people begin to feel a sense of loss … yet they don’t know what they are grieving for. They crave meaning but their connection with nature, and so too their inner life, is compromised. They are disconnected from their truth,” he said.

Lewis shared images of the skulls he collects and spoke of the symbolic meaning they held for him as he wrestles the images of life, death and wild things into his art. “To define ourselves as human we cut out the part of ourselves that was wild,” he said. “It doesn’t work that way. You can’t just have kidneys one day and then be like ‘Eh … they make me look fat’ and cut them out and go on living like nothing ever happened.”

The sculptor mentioned the compromises wrought by industrialisation, urbanisation and technology and how this is affecting nature because humans don’t make decisions with nature in mind. “The bond we had with nature – the inner connection between our bodies and the world around us – is wilting, we are less protective over the planet and it is suffering because of this,” he said.

The artist observed that many crave a return to nature, experiencing this as a deep and urgent need to be out in the open. He perceives that humanity’s inner self is begging for the freedom of expression that only a profound reconnection with the wilderness enables. “We can’t just cut it out, it is us,” he said.

Concluding the evening, gallery owner Charles Shields took the microphone. He reflected on the historical nature of sculpture in Africa and offered another unique perspective on the artist and his work, saying Lewis’ focus on the process of his creations has substantially influenced the region in a way that very few artists ever achieve.

“Because of the form in which he works, Dylan developed a foundry in his own back yard. Bronze, which is so central to his work, is one of the earliest manifestations of human art that has endured, because of the nature of metal and its capacity to withstand the elements. Some African sculptures date back 4 000 years. He trained many people who went on to develop their own foundries.

“This has put the Western Cape firmly on the map as the centre of fine art in South Africa. Most of those who trained with Dylan Lewis now form the backbone of a multi-million rand industry. Frankly, the success of Dylan as a sculptor has kept them busy almost single-handedly,” said Shields.

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Liesl Jobson (@LieslJobson) tweeted live from the event using the hashtag #livebooks:


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