Art is real - Regional News | Connecting Wellington
 Issue 215

Art is real by Alessia Belsito-Riera

Kirikiriroa Hamilton-born creative Richard Lewer believes it’s his job as an artist to tackle the hard subjects. He interrogates the complexities of our society objectively, considering himself a contemporary social realist and a visual storyteller who paints to make sense of the world.

His current exhibition, running until the 12th of May at the New Zealand Portrait Gallery Te Pūkenga Whakaata for the Aotearoa New Zealand Festival of the Arts, perpetuates this practice. Titled What they didn’t teach me at school: Richard Lewer – The Waikato Wars, this new oeuvre is the result of Lewer’s own personal journey learning about the history of the place he comes from.  

“It was David at {Suite} gallery who really steered me and gave me all this really great information,” Lewer says. His research process is extensive, gathering everything he can find. “I am a painter and I think it’s really important to say I’m not a historian. You’ve got to trust in your practice that you actually can tell the story.”

Lewer believes it’s important for all New Zealanders to acknowledge and digest our complex and disputed colonial history to better understand it.

The exhibition opening “was probably the best experience of my art life”, Lewer says, adding that he met descendants of people in the wars and folks who thanked him for delving into these stories. “When it touches on so many people, you go ‘art is real, it impacts people, and these things that I’m telling are true’. As an artist, I don’t think it gets any better than that.”

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« Issue 215, March 12, 2024