Case Study: Gemma Smith considers the work of Margo Lewers
19 November – 29 January 2012
Curator Anne Loxley invited Gemma Smith to work with her on an exhibition of Smith’s work and works by Margo Lewers- a thoughtful, fresh selection of Lewers’ collages, wall hangings, plexiglass sculptures and paintings in conversation with Smith’s paintings and perspex sculptures
Working at the Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest, one is supremely conscious of the art of Margo Lewers (1908-1978). With its gardens, murals and mosaics, the property is a work of art made up of many discrete works of art, and while not all the art it boasts is directly from Margo’s hand, this magical place is very much a result of her direction. And then there are the huge holdings of her paintings, ceramics, wall hangings and plexiglass sculptures in the collection.
During my time as Managing Curator and later Director of the Penrith Regional Gallery & The Lewers Bequest progressed, (2005-2010), I felt an increasingly strong desire to engage with the work of Margo Lewers, but felt anxious about the task of assessing such a huge and diverse body of work. The idea of asking Gemma Smith (b.1978) to address the Margo Lewers collection came as I encountered Smith’s powerful paintings and sculptures in the tradition of rigorous abstraction. I was struck by compelling cross-overs in the two practices: in their painting, both artists explored lyrical and hard edge abstraction, and both practices are distinguished by ambitious sculptures in plexiglass/acrylic. I very much wanted to see the works of Margo Lewers in conversation with the works of Gemma Smith.
After more than eighteen months of collection visits, reflections and deliberations, Gemma Smith and I are very pleased to present Case Study. Rather than a survey of either artist’s work, this exhibition is a very focussed selection. It will be years before Smith can match the forty-three year exhibition history of Lewers so Case Study features paintings and sculptures produced by her in the past six years. In contrast to the representation of Smith’s work, we decided on a ‘book-end’ selection of Margo’s crisper abstractions, beginning with her early forays into geometric abstract painting in the 1950s, and concentrating on the late works in plexiglass, textile and collage.
In the company of Smith’s finely crafted paintings and sculptures, Lewers works are fresh, substantial and contemporary. Case Study has reinvigorated ways of seeing the work of Margo Lewers.