Jill Lewis Art Exhibition
The exhibition ‘Jill Lewis – Sociable Species‘ is showing at Anthea Polson Art, from September 26 to October 10, 2020.
Curious hybrid creatures, schematic figures and plant forms advance and submerge amidst linear markings and colourful geometric shapes. They personify Jill Lewis’s musings about the worlds within and around her. Akin to the intent and pictorial techniques employed by primitive and ancient cultures, the scenarios are invested with symbolism. ‘As in Egyptian frescoes, the size and position of the characters can be representative of their significance in my own imagined stories,’ she imparts.
The totemic-like personages and the narratives they inhabit are never the result of a preconceived idea. Instead, they arise intuitively from a canvas filled with random gestural markings and colours. ‘It is not unlike looking at clouds in the sky or at a Rorschach ink blot,” says Jill. Once figures have been discerned, they are accentuated by removing superfluous areas around the forms. Attention is given to their associations and compositional factors. Defining features are added and the final stage is the embellishment of the work with intricate, decorative devises.
Jill tells that the exhibition’s title, Sociable Species, is ‘all about us needing each other, communicating, caring and working together for a common good. It also relates to my ongoing personal relationship with the natural world at large.’
Secluded in her Mount Eliza studio at the edge of a natural reserve, Jill has a keen awareness of and empathy for the creatures who call from its treetops and dwell in the creek gullies below. It is not unusual for magpie friends to calmly hop in through the open studio door. Especially in the current lockdown, Jill confesses to often wandering outside and talking to the birds for companionship. Of the serpents which so often appear in her paintings she imparts, ‘They are fellow beings deserving of respect and I worried for their safety during the recent bushfires. In my paintings, snakes can denote many things depending on the context: fear, beauty, lust, fertility, birth or regeneration. More broadly, they represent all the wildlife around me.’
The Survivor Paradox work is at once both poignant and quietly optimistic. ‘The symbolism in this one loosely alludes to the mythic phoenix that rises from the ashes,’ Jill explains. ‘Mostly painted during the recent bushfires, its imagery was initially about juggling fear and hope but it now also applies to the pandemic. At the bottom of the picture, the undulating scarlet shape is a red-hot river of danger implying a fire front, or other threat, moving across the landscape. Above, a fish is alive but swimming in ash-tainted water. The small black snake has also survived and emerges valiantly from a bowl of glowing heat. Fragile plant forms reach upwards, illustrating regeneration against the odds. The paradox here, is the use of colour and pattern to signify hope.’
An intended touch of humour imbues The Walking Fish is a Sign, They Said. Criss-crossing lines and patterns designate a jabbering of notions as to the reason for prevailing events. An ibex and horse, each decoratively resplendent, exchange viewpoints. A small bird listens to another equine’s theory. Even a stoic-like tree trunk is sprouting an amalgam of disparate foliage. From the side, a figure seemingly oblivious to the buzz of postulations has an arm raised in a personal eureka moment. His crimson ‘neck piece’ extends down to envelop a ‘sure sign’ – that of a walking fish! At the top of the work, a face bearing an ambivalent expression looks out at the viewer.
In the painting They Sang and She Needed Them, the snake symbology is friendly. Surrounded by affable creatures, a central seated figure glances up from the task at hand. Is it the little bird perched atop her head that has directed attention elsewhere? Outside, beyond the confines of walls and ponderings, she hears the bounty of nature beckoning. Its melody is one that collectively, we too are much in need of.