Artist Cedar Lewisohn has a few strings to his bow, not only does he create colourful large-scale works in his studio in Brixton, but he’s also a curator – he worked at Tate between 2005 – 2011 as assistant curator for the Dali and Film exhibition, curator on the 2008 show, Street Art and he co-curated Rude Britannia in 2010. In 2011 he published his book Abstract Graffiti with Merrell and he’s currently an art ambassador for G Shock. It’s safe to say this guy has his fingers in more than one pie – the best way to play it in today’s art world. So we took the tube down to South London to have a word with him in his studio.
Art Wednesday: Where did you grow up and how long have you been in London?
Cedar Lewisohn: I grew up in the suburbs of London, in a place called Chislehurst. Chislehurst is famous for the Siouxsie Sioux song, Hong Kong Garden. I spent many a happy hour in the Hong Kong Garden before I’d ever heard of Siouxsie and the Banshees. I came to London proper when I was about 18 to study art. I lived near Brixton and used hang around art squats and various other alternative type scenes.
AW: How you like to work – are you a night owl or do you stick to strict working hours during the day?
CL: In the studio, I quite like working slack office hours. But it changes the whole time if I’m travelling or have off site meetings. Yesterday for example, I started around 11am and finished around 10pm. Today I’m doing office work at home and plan to go to the studio around 6pm. I’m currently an ambassador for G-Shock Premiere which is actually proving indispensable, as punctuality is not my forte.
AW: How does your work take form? Ie. the process it goes through from idea to finished art work?
CL: It all basically starts with drawings. I might do the drawings from life, or from online images. Then I turn the drawings into woodblock prints which are then printed by hand, sometimes with help if they are large-scale. Then I maybe work on the backgrounds. Its a mixture of intuition, controlled mistakes and various rules I have set myself.
AW: How many people do you have working with you and what do they do?
CL: In the studio I’ve recently been having someone come in regularly to help me print the larger pieces and also other aspects of preparing the works which can take a long time. So it’s a fairly small scale operation. On the curatorial projects I’m working on, there are always lots more people involved. But it’s more of a series of collaborations.
AW: Are you clean or tidy? Or do you like to work in organised chaos?
CL: I think organised chaos is the best description. I like to be able to put my hand on something when I need it. But also, the great thing about the studio is that it is a place where you can make a mess and not worry about it. It’s great to throw paint around or use a super fat spray can nozzle. I’ve used to work in my flat before having a studio and it really affects what you do, because you don’t want to get paint everywhere.
AW: Are you noisy – or do you prefer to work in quiet?
CL: I usually have the radio on in the studio. I’m also a big fan of audio books, depending on what I’m working on.
AW: What’s your background into art ? Where did you study and are there any creatives in the family?
CL: I studied at Camberwell College of Art. I’m inspired by hundreds of artists and experiences from life to make art. When I was a kid, I always loved drawing, but I also like watching TV. TV and drawing where both a form of escapism. I come from a very creative family and background. My great grandmother was a novelist, her father was a well known marine painter… the list goes on and on.
AW: Favourite music/track to work to?
CL: I recently got a digital radio for the studio and it usually goes between Radio 6 and Radio 4. My favourite music changes daily with my mood, but I’ve been on a bit of a Brian Eno binge of late. I’m particularly into his own albums which have vocals, also his production work with people like Talking Heads.
AW: What’s next/projects in the pipeline?
I’ve got some great projects coming up as it happens. I’m working on a show for the New Gallery in Walsall, with will open in July this year. I’m curating that, and I’m planning on putting some of my own work in also. I’m also doing a small group show at the gallery below Mark Hix’s new restaurant Tramshed, I think that opens around April 26. I’m also self-publishing a book of my drawings and hopefully starting work on a new publication related to graffiti. Lastly, I’m commissioning a series of street art works for the waterways in Hackney Wick which will be live in summer 2013. Here’s some info on that project here.
Photos by Hayley Benoit.