In 2000 I had a mega-breakdown and spent five months in an acute mental health unit. The occupational therapist suggested I develop an interest to quell my darkest thoughts, so restarted my love for painting. In my teens I’d studied a few Saturday classes at Doncaster School of Art – even considered doing a BA there – then sold out ant went into journalism. After living in sheltered accommodation I was re-housed in 2004 in the wonderful artists colony of St Ives, a town I’d arrived in as a homeless Big Issue seller. Suddenly I had my own space, somewhere I could paint when I wanted to! I’ve always written poetry, appearing at Edinburgh Fringe in 1998 and 1999 as Big Issue Graham. A local gallery owner runs poetry open-mike sessions in West Cornwall. Impudently I asked him to look at my work, next day two more pieces were hanging in St Ives’ Salt House Gallery. (Where I’m still represented.) Since my return to painting ‘abstract essays in colour, tone and texture… rewarding to be with’ (The Cornishman newspaper, 02.10.2008) have been included in group shows in Cardiff, Bristol and Bath. When Lop-Lop Gallery Café opened in Poole, Dorset, just round the corner from the world-famous pottery, I was one of its first exhibitors. Last year, at Helston’s Hospice Gallery, I hung my first one-man. Then, in November, I was one of three visual artists asked to show in Cornwall’s first disability arts festival. (‘Djamu!’, meaning ‘I Am Here!’ in Aborigine, at the Acorn Arts Centre, Penzance.) This year I’ve been busy prearing for my first one-man show in my home town, St Ives’ September Art Show ran parallel to St Ives September Festival. Plans are already being made for next year, with a one-man booked in Torpoint for January, and another in Redruth later in the spring. For the first time in a very long time I’m regaining my confidence, who knows where my art might take me – if I get the right breaks!
Biography: St Ives’ September Art Show Graham Lewis at St Ives Library (St Ives Times & Echo, 03.10.2008) Mounted in memory of former St Ives window cleaner Robert John Barnett, who died in March of last year, and one of the many arts exhibitions held in association with this year’s St Ives September Festival, the collection of paintings by St Ives-based Graham Lewis displayed in the Greta Williams Community Room of St Ives Library, paid a colourful and cheerful tribute to one who was extremely well-known in the town and is still sadly missed. In speaking of the thirteen works, mainly acrylic on wood or canvas, plus a construction made from recycled materials with the apt title ‘ll On Tap’ in his exhibition, his first solo show in St Ives, Helston-born Graham Lewis said “They’re all my babies, I’m so proud!” Graham, who worked as a journalist for many years, had every reason to be so proud of them. Already regarded as ‘remarkable’ and one who has been described as ‘an individual, an eccentric with a paintbrush’, it is only recently, after being rehoused and being able to give up selling the ‘Big Issue’ magazine in the streets of St Ives, that he has had the time and the energy to concentrate on his painting. An abstract colourist, while some of his studies, such as ‘Shifting Sands’ and ‘St Nectan’s Glen’, were based on landscape, for the most part they were totally abstract essays in colour, tone and texture, and not a little emotion. From his geometrical wooden painted pieces ‘Triangle and ‘Exclamation’ to a ‘Self-Portrait’ on wood, from ‘Buckets Of Colour’ to ‘Green Curtain’, his works were as rewarding to be with as they were richly coloured, fully deserved the attention they received, and left one wanting more and wondering when his next show might be. (Frank Ruhrmund)
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