Dale Lewis’ new suite of paintings rove across England, from London’s Leadenhall Market to the amusement arcades of the coastal town Margate, capturing the spirit of the country over the Queen’s Jubilee weekend. Made at a moment of public mood swings straddling ecstatic celebrations and the start of a historic cost of living crisis, each rambunctious vignette has the makings of a tragicomedy, filtered through Lewis’ gutsy strain of social-realism.
In scenes that feel dangerously volatile and tense, characters indulging in escapist recreational activities begin to unravel. Across the battered tiles of a kebab shop, two inebriated men grapple with each other and their food; in a pub, a refined woman cowers behind a velvet rope from a bottle thrown by an irate homeless man; elsewhere disillusioned teenage parents seek momentary respite from each other in a retro fairground game. Each interaction seems symptomatic of a society grappling with its own cultural identity, set against the realities of rising social inequality and global political, economic and environmental uncertainty.
Lewis’ brush is both caustic and caring. His characters, drawn directly from the artist’s experiences, are close and empathetic observations that expose the sense of despair behind a thin veneer of hollow jubilation, as his protagonists find themselves caught in the eye of imminent national crisis. Lewis provides a vision of contemporary Britain on the precipice of a winter of discontent.
Dale Lewis (b. 1980) completed a BA in Fine Art at London Guildhall in 2002, an MFA at Brighton in 2006 and graduated the Turps Studio Programme in 2015. Recent solo exhibitions include No Place Like Home, Block 336, London (2021); The Great Day, Edel Assanti, London (2020); Free Range at Nino Mier Gallery, LA (2019) and Fat, Sugar, Salt, Edel Assanti, London (2018). Recent institutional exhibitions include The Day I Saw You at Museo de la Cancillería, Mexico City (2021) and Friends and Friends of Friends at the Schlossmuseum in Linz (2020). In 2021 Lewis’ 33 metre painting ‘The Great Day’ is part of the inaugural exhibition at Art Matters museum in Hangzhou, China, and earlier this year Lewis’ permanent 8 metre high mural was unveiled at Picturehouse’s newest central London cinema. Lewis was the recipient of the 2016 Jerwood Painting Fellowship. Lewis lives and works in London.