Shannon Lewis Tells Us Her Story.
Investigating the moments of human intimacy and desire are just some of the many focuses surrounding Berlin-based artist, Shannon Lewis’ work.
Shannon Lewis has created a practice that reveals spaces of femininity, tearing down social constructs and gives a narrative to the effects of sensations on the body. Shying away from work on the traditional canvas, Lewis primarily uses wood and fabric installations to showcase beautiful paintings that give visuals to the body’s most unspoken performances.
Inspired by writers like Toni Morrison and Jamaica Kincaid, Lewis loves to tell stories and thinks of her art practice as having a narrative with characters weaving in and out of the tales. Berlin, London and Trinidad-Tobago are cities that Shannon’s work has touched and her resume holds. The beauty of her art tells stories that many have had the chance to uncover and we wanted to uncover more about Shannon’s inspirations, influences and experiences so far.
Uncovering “Unconscious Archives”, 3-Dimensional Natures and Tugging at Vulnerabilities
Tell us, how did you get started as an artist?
I always liked to draw and paint but never thought of it as a career until a high school art teacher told me he thought I could go to art school. It was so off of my radar, I didn’t know I COULD go to university for art, but I did the research and found out I was living in a town that had one of the best animation programs in the world. I initially went there, thinking that that would be my outlet, but eventually realised that what I truly wanted was to tell my own stories, and not others.
Your recent work showcases the anatomy of people of colour without a direct focus on identity, tell us where your inspiration to leave your work “faceless” came from.
For me, this is two-fold. I want the viewer to stop and read a message about a figure or person without focusing on a face. Sometimes that’s too easy and we get hung up on our own conclusions and certainty about reading a person. I want to slow down that moment by making it a little bit difficult and notice posture, a hand gesture, an article of clothing. All of the things we take in about people that form our opinion without noticing it.
I want the viewer to investigate their “unconscious archives” of imagery and denying a face, or straight on a portrait is a way to complicate that. This also speaks to refusal as well. The refusal of the figure to not be fully seen unless they so desire. It’s a strategy to shift power relations.
Wood canvases are commonly used in your artwork, what influenced this choice?
I started to use wood because I liked its three-dimensional nature. I painted the sides and it developed an almost box-like nature. It truly became a beautiful object in itself and that’s a theme in a lot of my work. The work is done to transform into a desirable object, so for me, it’s interesting when that can happen within the piece. This is similar to my practice of fabric installation.
How have erotics influenced your creativity?
Erotics are one of the driving forces of my work. At the locus of my practice is investigating the moments of human intimacy & desire and the effects that those moments have on the body. What does it feel like on the body to crash around all of that effect? What are the sensations involved?
Where has your art taken you?
In a general sense, it has led me to conversations and interactions with people whose path I wouldn’t normally cross and expanded my world view, which I think is the beauty of art in general. In another sense, it has led me to deep introspection, really investigating my thoughts, dreams, desires and being painfully honest about them by tugging at vulnerabilities, simultaneously causing anxieties and relieving them.
We live in an era where social media plays a huge role in exposure for artists. What is your strategy for making sure your work is seen?
This is always complicated for me because it doesn’t come naturally. I get lost in moments and forget to document things and later regret it, but I’ve gotten slightly better. Instagram is obviously a great tool for artists, you get to be seen by a wider audience. I can live and work in Europe, but still, be connected to conversations in North America and the Caribbean where so much of my work is based on those dialogues. Online conversations have been translated into real-world connections and collaborations. Anything that can expand the community is a positive for me.
Discover more of her work, view Shannon’s collection
Shannon Lewis On Display
We can find Shannon’s work at a special one-night pop-up exhibition at BUTCH C.U.T., Segitzdamm 36, Berlin at 7 pm on Friday 24th January, curated by Hank Bobbit. This is the second instalment of a series of small works created for the space entitled “Some She Recognizes”. This series is a quiet study of light on Black skin and hair. It is about demanding a pleasure space, that plays with primping and polishing, not as an assimilation to the fashion-beauty complex--but a space of satisfying self-care and artistry.”
Open to all at BUTCH C.U.T., Segitzdamm 36, Berlin, Germany at 7 pm on Friday, January 24th.