Dominic Lewis’ monochromatic yet impressionistic paintings have an intriguing duality, suggesting both an archaism and a contemporary sensibility. The artist’s process begins with the selection of a historic image from archives, and or art history or reference volumes. Lewis notes that his sources include decorative patterns, old master works, studies of the nude body or even images of war and death. In the final paintings that seem an admixture of interiors, imagined histories, and people, Lewis engenders a dialogue between the idea of value, authenticity and ownership. The artist notes that he seeks to “create works that question the nature of art production by using subjects that reflect artistic processes or images that have been used throughout art history. The work investigates different supports and processes, while using photography to create positive and negative space and to the reflect the temporal nature of time.”
To make these extraordinary paintings, Lewis starts with a large format photograph and transforms the image through a recontextualization achieved through gestural brushwork and a complex yet readable process. The artist begins with a gesso ground, followed by a graphite grid repeating the gridding of the source image, which is in turn built up through the application of oil color with a glazed medium. Lewis uses a range of monochromes, building tone with variable blacks, and whites including ivory, noting that “the glaze medium combined with the absorbency of the gesso ground creates a tonal range achieved without reworking or overpainting that leads to a more direct and instantaneous application of paint echoing the process of photography.”
This archaic yet evocative reimagining of historic events includes a series of auction paintings inspired by the holdings of the Getty, as well as group of paintings based on a photograph of the sinking Titanic, rendered in an elegiac approach in which “the process of making paintings serves as an metaphorical act symbolizing the renewable boundless nature of the sea.” Through this symbiotic process of borrowing archival imagery and transforming it through traditional and modernist painting methods, the artist has created a new genre of painting that creates a narrative of imagined history and functions as well as poetic expression of the act of painting.
Rosa JH Berland