"You have great breasts!" And so began my introduction to the
(charmingly perceptive) Julius Lewandowski - an artist whose work
shocks almost as much as his extravagant persona. Currently
displayed in the basement of Sophie Dare's newly-opened Sensation
Modern Gallery, the door sign warns: explicit material inside. Of
course, it is the busiest part of the gallery.
Notting Hill is delightful on the eve of the private view:
leafy, lazy and summery enough to dawdle and soak up the
architecture of some of London's most coveted and expensive
buildings. I have an ungenerous hunch that the walk may prove more
aesthetically stimulating than the exhibition. I'm wrong.
Lewandowski draws upon a host of familiar references, yet he
creates images undeniably his own. Burra receives homage and
Eastern painters like Utamoro provide inspiration for at least one
gorgeous, glitzy purple scene. It's all rather fun, confident and
naughty - like the best sex.
"I'm obsessed with sex!" Lewandowski insists with a thick Polish
accent, before informing me that he was not born physically male. I
ask if his gender identity holds him back: "I was afraid that
nobody would accept me," he reveals, adding: "But I don't want to
be closed into one community. For me it's important to go and mix
with other people and show then that we are happy and noble and
that we can do some interesting stuff."
He tells me that an ex-girlfriend, a trans woman, was his
long-time muse. Turning to the wall, I see that many of the faces
are indeed variations of the same person, a beautiful woman with
just the slightest hint of a male past. An unexpectedly sentimental
Every piece has a particular boldness; he paints with
self-assured and precise vision. If his works are a little on the
small side, well, he's young, and grander pieces must surely be on
the way as his career progresses.
Orgies, bestiality, dismembered bodies... Lewandowski's pieces
visit the physical; all beautifully rendered and unique stylish.
One highlight shows a couple in flagrante delicto, expressed though
a spectrum of blue which should really suggest a cadaverousness: in
fact they are full of life and warmth. Another details a man,
cobalt and contorted with pleasure, orally stimulating himself. You
wonder if your mum would like it.
"I paint things which make people uncomfortable sometimes, but I
make it so beautiful that it is acceptable," he tells me, and I
agree it would be hard for even the stuffiest of critics not to be
charmed on some level.
Cerulean, beryl, azure... anyone with an appreciation for blue
should love his work, though it is frequently offset by hot pinks
and dusky reds; a strong nod towards Picasso and, one supposes, the
gender binary. It certainly doesn't indicate conservatism.
Lewandowski has the charisma demanded of any great artist,
coupled with true creative talent. Expect to see him hanging from
the walls of your more outrageous acquaintances... if not on
canvas, in person.
International Artists Group Exhibition
Sensation Modern Fine Art
2-16 June 2011, by appointment only (please call Sophie
Dare on 07528 333 884)