Heather Lewis

Making art has always had its subversive side, a deliberate attempt to manipulate perception and emotion. The most figurative of artists still fiddle with color, texture and form to produce an effect; those on the more abstract end of the spectrum fling, drip, carve or hammer their conceptual inventions into existence from more subtle inspirational origins. The goal may be to soothe or shock, educate or confuse, but above all to coax the viewer into a dialogue.

Asheville artist Heather Lewis came to this conclusion early in her development as a painter, as well as a creator of works on paper and of three-dimensional installation art. “I was curious about what any image meant, how the form of it affected what it conveyed,” Heather says of her years at the University of Dundee in Scotland, where she earned her M.F.A. “I loved...the ability of simple marks to create illusions in traditional art practice.” Starting with ceramics produced for her own business in Scotland in the late 1980’s, Heather’s attraction to the designs she produced for the pots soon overtook any interest in making the pots themselves, and she was soon exploring other forms of expression, turning to memories of growing up near an oil refinery in Trinidad & Tobago, where her British-born parents were teachers. “I grew up in an oilfield town, seeing the lights of the huge refinery from my bedroom window,” Heather recalls, pinpointing the inspiration of the nightscapes that were her first explorations of new forms in her post-ceramic phase. “I found that nightscapes, often simplified versions of lights at night in a dark void, using stencils and single colors, allowed me to use dots and edges to create an understanding of space, yet also imply other circumstances.” The night scenes were Heather’s first foray into using pure forms and painterly technique to suggest rather than show. It proved to be the doorway to even more adventurously sly work when she moved to the United States in 2002 and was drawn to throwaway bits of plastic, metal and packaging material she found at the local recycler. “I loved the clean-cut shapes and curves, and the regularity, ingenuity and technology that produced these things,” Heather says. “I had to work hard to understand that the dynamics that were really operating in the nightscapes could be taken further forward by using these shapes and objects. It freed me from all kinds of irrelevant limitations. That was the birth of what I see as my focused practice, my mature work.”

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