Entertainment Books

Wednesday 19 December 2018

What lies beneath: Geminate by Leah Hewson

Geminate by Leah Hewson

Niall MacMonagle

Sugar and spice and all things nice? Pink for a girl and blue for a boy? Huh. Cliches and stereotypes are sometimes questioned, sometimes exploded. They need to be. Thinking outside the box is what artists do all the time, and in this recent work by Leah Hewson she challenges us to look again at girlhood, personality, differences, expectations and presumptions.

Hewson calls this painting Geminate "because it means to make or become doubled or paired, twinned, coupled". Pelmanism, the game of putting together matching cards, the pairing of figures, fascinated her as a child and now as an adult she explores inhibited and uninhibited childhoods.

But here there's an ironic and anarchic twist. On the left all is sweety, tweety. The pretty girl is holding a little chick and gazing at it with affection. On the right an identical image. Almost. Except for that gruesome mouth, those ugly, bulging eyes, an extra pair of skinny arms. And the about-to-be-devoured apple. The drawing deliberately imitates figures from a child's colouring book and creates, initially, a comforting, familiar zone until polar opposites kick in. There's also a bit of gender inversion at work in that blue patterned background. Hewson has always been interested in form, shape and symmetry. For the moment, Hewson has set aside paint on canvas and though capable of sharp, representational images her new show has a surreal touch and includes work, like this one, done on the blank side of a sheet of ragged-edged wallpaper, another is on the back of a jigsaw. For Hewson, it gives her art accessibility and immediacy. And colour is important: orange and reds are significant; her nails are blue, her bicycle is a fluorescent green and gold.

Hewson, aged 27, names Dali, Escher and Warhol among her influences and, closer to home, Alice Maher. Geminate features Gemini twins. She herself is a Pisces. So she's perceptive, emotional, reasonable? "I don't really read my star sign anymore," she says. Nor does she mention the elephant in the room – she's Bono's niece –but she doesn't need to. Hewson is her own woman and she knows where she's going. She'll follow her own star.

Cusp, Leah Hewson's new exhibition, is now showing at The Picture Rooms, 12 Wellington Quay, D2. Until October 31. www.leah hewson.wordpress.com

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