Artist Paul Lewin Paints Folklore and Science-Fiction Emerging from African Diaspora
Who is Paul Lewin?
I was born in Kingston, Jamaica in 1973 and moved to the U.S. with my family in 1977. I spent most of my years growing up in Miami FL and I am now living in Oakland, CA. Art has been apart of my life from as far back as I can remember. My father was my first artistic influence and from a very young age I would assist him in various creative projects. As with most members of my family he was also a storyteller. I loved listening to his stories of the old country in Jamaica while we worked. He also taught me a lot about ancient societies, science, and history. My childhood home was filled with paintings, sculptures, and artifacts of many different cultures from around the world. These works, along with my love of sci-fi and fantasy art inspired a lot of my early creativity. Eventually I began working on my own projects and started creating my own stories. Pencil and paper were my medium of choice in those days. I was also really into graffiti during my early years and I soon moved into more colorful pieces using markers and pens. Around this time I graduated high school just barely passing art class. For me drawing still life’s was torturous and I had no interest in most of my art assignments. I decided not to pursue art school at a higher level, but I kept on with my drawings. In 1994 I picked up a paint brush for the first time and began painting in acrylics. This opened up a whole new world that I’ve been exploring ever since. In 1998 I had my first art show in Miami. In 2004 I moved to the Bay Area to pursue my art further and today my studio is located in Oakland, CA.
What does he have to say about his works?
I’ve always had a love for the art of storytelling. It’s been a part of my culture since the days of our ancient ancestors. My work is a way for me to continue this tradition in the language I’ve always known best… visual art. With painting, I am able to create my own stories and reflect on the history of my ancestors. Like those who came before me art has played a very important role in my life. It helped me through many dark days and gave me a better understanding of who I was, where I came from, and where I am headed. For the early Afro-Caribbean communities artistic expression was a vital tool in the struggle against colonization and keeping ties to their ancestral past strong. Creativity and storytelling were a means of cultural survival in unfamiliar lands. I find this similar to what we as descendants of the diaspora experience today. Growing up on a steady diet of tv, video games, sci-fi and fantasy I was submerged in a world where i saw very little representation of characters similar to myself. Art allowed me to insert bits and pieces of my own experience into these stories and give them new life. Over the years my work has been influenced by indigenous folklore, tribal cultures, religion, and ancient societies. Old folklores, legends, and rituals re-imagined through new experiences and new ideas of self. Much of my work takes place amidst the backdrop of sci-fi and fantasy. I like to mix traditional Caribbean and African motifs with surreal visions of nature and the ancestry that surrounds us daily. I want each piece to tell its own story. Many times a story unfolds as I paint and I try to allow it to form without too much thought. I also try not to give away too much with each piece. I like to allow for the viewer’s own interpretations to be a part of the experience as well. My work is also the story of myself and my own journey. I believe it is important for us to tell our stories the way we want them to be heard.
Have a look at some of his paintings from the series Roots of the Cotton Tree.