Dylan Lewis approaches creating a space in much the same way as he does his monumental sculptures – building it up, breaking down the bits that don’t feel right and redoing them. As a result the ‘studio’ space he’s created in Stellenbosch is a labour of love and time (a lot if it) and has evolved dramatically, if gradually, over the last seven years.
Initially his working studio, it was added onto room by room as his business demanded it. Eventually Dylan sought new space for his foundry and now the multi-roomed structure serves as a ‘showroom’ of sorts that he and his wife, Karen, have curated for his vast cache of work. There are features indoors as well as throughout the property at large – an extensive parkland that has been carved out of the earth with hills and dams, pathways and lookout points, all for the ultimate purpose of exhibiting his sculptures in a living, functioning space.
His journey too has been an indirect one rather than a straight-line trajectory into sculpture. After – unbelievably – failing first-year painting, he first explored taxidermy (invaluable, as it turned out, for teaching him the nuances of animal form) before once again returning to fine art, eventually finding his niche in sculpture. ‘When I started painting my work was colourful, quite Fauvist in style, but once I moved into sculpture colour became a distraction to the surface, which for me trumps everything else – even form and outline,’ explains Dylan.
This transition paved the way for his now internationally recognisable style, an aesthetic that’s echoed in the details of the structure itself, which essentially serves as an extension of his artworks, albeit architectural. Surface interest is paramount here, at the expense of colour. The neutral palette, reminiscent of Axel Vervoordt’s elegant European austerity, encompasses the extremes of black and white and all the biscuit, grey, taupe and olive tones in between. Surfaces are rough, worn, cracked – full of character and expression and transition between the different textures. ‘All my work is about fissures, crevices,’ he comments. The cracks in the concrete floors and walls are this concept made manifest. Some intentional, some not – but the artist’s fascination with patina and the passage of time meant they were embraced rather than patched up.
His and Karen’s awareness of what works – she too is well versed art-wise – lend the space the quality of a well-resolved composition. But while the styling is most definitely a team effort, Karen credits Dylan’s eye – ‘The scale and proportion is all him.’ This applies too to his functional pieces which he started doing years ago as just an affordable way to furnish his own space. ‘I love the practical challenge of designing furniture – there are constraints that don’t exist in art,’ he explains. The house brings these different disciplines together under one roof, the powerful animal and figurative sculptures living comfortably alongside the more restrained functional pieces he’s designed. ‘My work is quite schizophrenic – on the one hand is the brutal and on the other the more decorative, but the landscape has always been, and continues to be, my primary source of inspiration.’ Continually evolving, Dylan’s work progresses and changes shape, and so, no doubt, will this property, in a true example of life imitating art.
For more of Dylan Lewis’ work visit dylanlewis.com.
Photographs Greg Cox