Renowned South African painter Ryan Hewett’s The Garden is set to become the inaugural exhibition at Unit London’s Mayfair Gallery.
For Ryan Hewett, the portrait goes far beyond simply capturing the external accuracy of a subject. What makes a portrait special, rather, is depicting an empathetic portal to understand the inner journey.
“I look for depth,” Hewett says. “And then it’s an ongoing process of construction and deconstruction. Each subject involves a journey in the evolution of technique.”
Renowned for his brooding and evocative paintings, Hewett has had his work acclaimed for his signature vigorous textural quality. Relying heavily on his free-flowing process of memory and creative imagination, the self-taught painter has found success in the art world, with his previous solo exhibitions receiving widespread acclaim for his unique exploration of the self.
The Garden, however, marks a significant moment in the 37-year old’s career. Consisting of large oil paintings, drawings and cutouts that lean toward fantasy, Hewett couples it with a juxtaposition of flattened angular shapes that draw the viewer’s focus back to the materiality and technique of traditional painting.
“I think there’s a big shift in process and content,” he admits. “For the first time, I’ve moved away from just faces and explored other subject matters.”
The notions of surrealism and fantasy are further bolstered with the muted colour palettes, thick impasto and distorted figures he’s already become associated with. The Garden sees the artist incorporate various geometric structures and abstractive forms that exude a sense of isolation, self-examination and introspection.
The eponymous piece, “The Garden,” is marked as the exhibition’s starting point and represents for Hewett’s continuing evolution and exploration of multi-dimensional landscapes and complex layering techniques. At 2 x 3 metres, “The Garden” is the largest piece from Hewett to date, taking him more than six months to complete.
The Garden signals a transition towards more ambiguous, large-scale paintings. A large factor for this is due to the move to a new 340 sq metre art studio in his hometown of Cape Town at the end of last year.
His first debut solo exhibition was held at Barnard Gallery in April 2013 and sold out within just days of opening to the public. Following a string of showings in New York and California, Hewett successfully held his first one-man show in London in April 2015. The Garden is now Hewett’s third solo exhibition with Unit London, and he hopes to continue his string of sold-out shows.
In addition to Hewett, The Garden marks the inaugural moment for Unit London as the debut exhibition for their new 6,000 square foot Mayfair Gallery. The former Citibank property covers two expansive floors and forms a new central London flagship that is meant to house the gallery’s growing artist roster. This will be further complemented by a wider mix of creative collaborations and interdisciplinary cultural events.
Founded by Joe Kennedy and Jonny Burt in 2013, Unit London remains committed to its principles – that art should be celebrated, inclusive and undivided. The showcase of The Garden showcases that they remain a culturally-engaged brand equipped to celebrate art in the modern age with a genuine desire to create an accessible art platform for bold, innovative and experimental artists.
Embodying the spirit and ideals of Unit London is Ryan Hewett, as the South African painter represents an exciting new wave of contemporary painters who remain committed to exploring the boundaries of the traditional medium. Drawing his inspiration from the essence of human experience and its natural surroundings, The Garden is an exhibition you won’t want to miss.