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Mark Lewis, Rear Projection (Golden Rod), 2006. Film still courtesy of the artist.
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Mark Lewis: Howlin' Wolf

In 2006, we were proud to present a collection of work by Canadian artist Mark Lewis, which included the World Première of two specially commissioned films: Rear Projection (Molly Parker) and Rear Projection (Golden Rod).

Lewis uses 35mm film, professional actors, crew and simple filming techniques to undermine the characteristics that define mainstream and avant-garde cinema. By subtly referencing classical motifs and genres (for example, dense foliage to represent sexuality and the combination of landscape and portrait) Lewis weaves connections between the history of art and film, and suggests that the evolution of film and technology are intrinsically linked to other visual cultures.

Lewis turned from photography to filmmaking in the mid 1990's, although photography still plays an important role in his work today (his 'location photographs' are often precursors to completed films). Earlier works, such as Peeping Tom (2000) and Upside Down Touch of Evil (1997) focused on deconstructing cinema history by selecting and re-creating particular elements of well-known films, employing simple shots and techniques.

The works exhibited in the show, which dated from 2001, documented a significant shift in Lewis' practice. Glamorous locations were replaced with observations of everyday situations, actions and places. The focus of Lewis' gaze became the brutalist concrete structures and council estates found in his London studio's back yard. Both Rear Projection films reveal a desolate Canadian landscape with dilapidated buildings - a far cry from the lush tropical gardens depicted in Jay's Garden, Malibu or the sublime parkland of Algonquin Park (a previous work we commissioned for Liverpool Biennial 2002).

Mark Lewis, Northumberland, 2005. Film still courtesy of the artist.

Mark Lewis, Northumberland, 2005. Film still courtesy of the artist.

Lewis rarely films outside Canada and London, his two homes. However, the works shown here have been made in various urban and rural landscapes in Northumberland and California as well as Ontario and London. These places provide contrasting settings for each of the films, revealing Lewis' interest in the changing seasons and his recurring use of signature props such as trees blowing in the wind. Moreover, these works demonstrate Lewis' preoccupation with the relationships between film, painting and photography and the combination of genres.

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