Dylan Lewis – An Untamed Force
With an introduction by Ian McCallum
(Fernwood Press, R350)
If by chance you’re an art lover and you haven’t heard of this magnificent sculptor, regarded as one of the finest wildlife sculptors in the world, this book will turn that around.
With exquisite pictures by especially principal photographer Gerda Genis, it is the wild aspect of his work that is especially captivating.
“For him,” writes Ian McCallum, “wild animals and the wild areas in which they live are far more than elegant subjects of art: they are an essential part of human identity.”
Lewis believes, says McCallum who is a doctor, a Jungian psychologist, author, wilderness guide and founder of the Wilderness Leadership School in the Cape, that wildness isn’t just out there, it is inside all of us.
It’s that spirit that his work so magnificently captures. But because we have forgotten who we are, and have lost our immediate connection with nature, wild areas and animals have suffered.
“Dylan’s powerful and disturbing works – human with animal masks, some with claws, others with wings or horns – are all mirrors of the essential nakedness of the human-animal interface and fitting reminders of where we have come from,” he states.
He explains that the force of Lewis’ talent cannot be separated from his childhood memories and geography. He was exposed to the wilderness from a very early age, to animal encounters and to the world of canvas and paint by parents who were both artists.
Guided by them in particular, he learnt the discipline of “attention to measurement, structure and proportions. Importantly, he learnt the value of drawing from wild, living forms.”
He himself says: “It allowed me to get into the skin of the animal.”
And that’s possibly why his work, while realistic, also has a mystical element that grabs hold of the viewer’s imagination.
McCallum sketches his development which started with painting landscapes, shifted to sculpting birds and then the great cat species.
“He subsequently produced his first smooth, unblemished human feminine forms and, soon thereafter, his rugged animal-masked and shamanic masculine forms. Finally came the huge and sometimes disturbing fragmented pieces,” he writes, explaining that every phase of Lewis’ work has fed and fuelled the next.
“There is an interacting circularity about the work. Trying to find where it begins and ends is like trying to find the hiding place of a leopard.”
With parents and grandparents all professional artists, his path was pretty much planned even before birth and when you page through the first few pages with photo-graphs depicting scenes from his childhood, through his formative years as an artist until the present day, you can follow the timeline of his development quite stunningly.
But more than anything, this is a book about Lewis’ work. The pictures tell the story and while nothing can replace the real sculptures because of the already large collection, this is a way to take a tour of his work and understand and appreciate his art.
It’s also a guide to his work as you travel. Some will be available for viewing, others not, but to see some of this work in real life in the setting where it works best, will be spectacular.
An untamed force, the name/ description given to this artist and his work seems apt when you look at especially the power of his sculpting. There’s movement and emotion that is uncanny in work that is this rooted.
Talking about the future in an interview printed in the book, he says: “As I have grown older, I am more inclined to trust my quiet inner voice as I struggle to understand and remain true to my personal vision in the conflicted world of ‘art politics’.
“My hope for the future is that I will continue to explore my central themes with increasing courage and conviction.”