Lewis, Dylan (1964-)

Artwork by Dylan Lewis

In his early forties, Dylan Lewis is among the most highly regarded figurative sculptors working with the animal form today and is fast becoming an international name. Lewis’s sculptures are overwhelmingly of the big cats. The Cat is his totem, his muse. It is the archetypal animal that has inspired him, and is his métier.

The world premier of Lewis’s cat sculpture exhibitions was held during February 1999 at the Schoongezicht Manor House in Stellenbosch before travelling on to the Everard Read Gallery in Johannesburg. The response to Lewis’s show was exceptional. Mark Read, director of the gallery said “It was the finest and most successful one-man show in our 87 year history”. In June that year the show travelled to London, followed in November by an exhibition on the Isle of Man. In the years since this launch Lewis has held 17 one man exhibitions of his cat sculptures, including five in London, two in Toronto and two in Dallas. Many of these shows have proved extraordinarily popular, with entire editions of some bronzes selling out only days after the show opening. This international trend is set to accelerate over the next few years following the successful auction of a selection of his animalia works at Christie’s London in June 2007.  Dylan Lewis is an artist of international standing with an ever-growing client base of the world’s most discerning art lovers.

Behind-the-scenes Working within a strict, self-imposed discipline of directly observing nature, Lewis dissected a leopard carcass to give him insight into the inner workings of this animal. He sketches leopards almost daily, filling books with drawings and notes until an understanding of form and movement emerges. He then builds his sculptures from the skeleton outwards. This discipline gives him the freedom to concentrate on the abstract sculptural elements of the work, which give shape to his powerful evocations of animal form and force. Lewis works in clay, crafting the medium so that its final shape and surface take on an almost elemental quality, its textured nuances and infinite subtleties not only bringing the animal to life but speaking of the wilderness itself, of the earth, air, water and fire that shape the environment and sustain its denizens.

His sculptures touch the elemental, the pristine, lending a visual echo to the word of an old Native American, who knew that “to sit upon the earth is to be able to think more deeply and feel more keenly, see more clearly into the mysteries, and come closer in kinship to other living things… Life is the firefly in the night, the breath of a buffalo in wintertime, the shadow that runs across the grass and loses itself in the sunset.”