Guest ArtistFrame 61

Tim Lewis

Guest ArtistFrame 61
Tim Lewis

"Even as a child I clumsily tried to build little working models and devices to mimic almost any situation I came across, of course I didn’t realise that this could be a kind of art, it was just something I did."


Could you tell us a bit about yourself. How long have you been a practising artist and where did you study?

I live and work in London, and have done so since doing a fine art degree at Middlesex polytechnic, and then later studying at the Royal College of Art in the mid eighties. Shortly after that the Flowers Gallery offered to represent me and have provided a stable enough base to work from and develop the themes I've been interested in since.

What draws you to kinetic forms of sculpture? Is it something you have always done?

Even as a child I clumsily tried to build little working models and devices to mimic almost any situation I came across, of course I didn’t realise that this could be a kind of art, it was just something I did. It was only half way through college that it occurred to me that this could perhaps be a valid medium to work in, the palette I wanted to use.

Abducted Planet, 2016

Face of God, 2016

Salutation, 2016

Your major piece "Beneath Above" is a mechanical sculpture with two robotic arms appearing to joust/dance with each other. Could you talk about this artwork and the thoughts behind it?

Although its a sizeable piece, I see it very much a model or maquette for a far larger one. I had been interested in using a cubic frame to attempt to enclose a volume that would be entirely separate from the space in which the cube is placed and exhibited. Within this volume anything could occur entirely separately from the space outside it..

For 'Beneath Above' I intended an almost titanic antagonism / flirtation to take place between two beings far larger than ourselves, large enough that that they would be oblivious to anyone of the size of the viewer. As the piece now stands the beings to which the arms belong are only 3 to 4 metres high, I think now, that perhaps, this piece will only really work on a far bigger scale.

What artwork have you seen recently that has resonated with you?

It's rarely art that resonates with me. But one thing that inspired me greatly recently was a visit to Herschel's house in Bath. It's just a fairly modest terraced house, but here in his kitchen he builds a workshop and  furnace, to build the lenses and parts, to build a telescope and with that discoveres an entirely new planet (Uranus) from his back garden.

This is what I find exciting and where I find inspiration. The journey he has made, from the manipulation of base materials, to an unknown world in the depths of the solar system.

What do you hope the viewer gains/reacts from looking at your work?

Sadly these things don't often occur to me during the building of the work, perhaps they should, but it's only when it comes to showing them that it begins to dawn on me that there are going to be viewers. 

I don't attempt to elicit a specific reaction, if it is found at all interesting that is enough. People are very bright and are far more adept at deciphering than I am at conveying.

Beneath Above, Installation View, Flowers Gallery, 2016

Tell us a bit about how you spend your day/studio routine, what is your studio like?

When I get to the studio the first job is to go though the communal bins out the front. The bulk of the material I use comes from these. Although to be honest after a bad day's work, and that's the majority, most of it will go right back into those bins on my way home.

The rest of the day is spent either, testing out ideas I think might work, or when all is going well then actually building a piece. They can take from a few hours to several months, so I tend to work on several concurrently.

The studio itself is pretty small, and at worst feels like nothing more than a glorified stock cupboard with a only a little space left in the center to work on anything. Every couple of years I have to chuck almost everything or one would just get amongst the remains of plans that didn't come off.

How do you go about naming your work?

Despite always having working titles when making the work, I don't tend to use them very often, they seem to make little sense to anybody else. So I try to use either a very simple physical description of the piece, or occasionally a word or two to convey the mood that l hope the piece has.

What does the future hold for you as an artist? Is there anything new and exciting in the pipeline you would like to tell us about?

This week I am restoring two old pieces of mine for a show in February ('Kinetica 10th Anniversary exhibition'). Its always interesting to work on an old piece. Even though one of them was built a decade ago, I find one can remember immediately the issues and rationales that were corns ten years ago.

After that I need to spend a couple of weeks drawing, not so much as artworks, but just an attempt to filter my current ideas and decide which ones to go forward with.

Images courtesy of Flowers Gallery London and New York
Interview publishing date: 09/02/17