Ryan Hewett: UNTITLED at The Unit London
Ryan Hewett’s splendid series of portraits depicting influential figures from world history is the newest exhibition that The Unit London has on offer. This contemporary artist-led gallery – priding itself in its innovative marketing approach of heavy reliance on social media and its challenging of the traditional ways in which people view art – seems like the most appropriate place to host an exhibition as inherently timeless as this one. UNTITLED is not only Ryan Hewett’s very first solo exhibition in London, but also his first one in Europe, making it a must-see for every admirer of the renowned South African painter. What sets him apart from other artists is his own perception of portraiture: he sees it as a process that creates a portal to the inner journey of self-exploration, as the opposite of the simple capturing of an external likeness of a subject. It is this idea that is crucial for understanding UNTITLED.
Hewett’s exhibition consists of more than 20 paintings of iconic figures that have in one way or another shaped the world; there are portraits of people as versatile as Winston Churchill, Charles Darwin, John Kennedy, Albert Einstein, and Adolf Hitler. What they all have in common, apart from the fact that they have changed the course of history, is the unique way they have been portrayed by Hewett. With quick splashes of the palette knife and a brave use of colour, he has managed to strip each persona from the qualities history and collective memory have ascribed to them, to lay them completely bare. By doing so, the artist has left his work completely open to interpretation; the lack of a political statement, while portraying predominantly political figures, gives the viewer the rare opportunity of seeing well-known faces in a new light. Vladimir Putin, Mahatma Ghandi, Osama Bin Laden, and John Lennon – all of them are presented in their human selves, with no prejudice, in a way that is almost exclusive for abstract painting. The viewer is invited to be a part of the creative process, to shape their own thinking and free their mind of judgements.
UNTITLED is an exhibition that asks more questions than it gives answers to: it is in this process of exploration that Ryan Hewett speaks the loudest while saying so little. A showcase of brilliant portraits, this is the one London exhibition that should not be missed.
Ryan Hewett: UNTITLED is on at The Unit London from 24th April until 24th May 2015, for further information visit here.