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Published:Sunday | November 18, 2012 | 12:00 AM
LA Lewis' 'Head Less Tree' created a stir at the New Art Exchange in Nottingham, England, recently.-Contributed

LA Lewis creates controversy in Nottingham

Jordane Delahaye, Sunday Gleaner Writer

A stickler for controversy, self-proclaimed "conceptional artist" LA Lewis is again inciting a maelstrom social unease with his latest "artistic" endeavour.

As part of a long list of events and activities geared towards Jamaica's celebration of 50 years of independence, Nottingham's New Art Exchange (NAE) is currently showcasing the second installation of its two-part 'I is AnOther' art exhibition.

Part one of the exhibition, which was launched on September 27, featured works from two Jamaicans - filmmaker Storm Saulter and acclaimed artiste Nari Ward. The exhibition also featured British painter Hurvin Anderson and, according to NAE, was meant to illustrate the ancestral and historical influence on Jamaican identity.

Part two of the exhibition was launched on the first of this month and features additional work from Jamaican artists Ebony G. Patterson and Peter Dean Rickards. Part two is said to be an exploration of contemporary influences on identity, including current politics and economics.


LA Lewis is not a featured artist in the exhibition, but Rickards has included some of Lewis' work among his own.

"I put him in the exhibit because I've done so much work on him over the years that he is indeed part of my own portfolio," Rickards told The Sunday Gleaner.

Ironically, the piece that probably turns the most heads at the exhibition is a piece by Lewis titled 'Head Less Tree'.

'Head Less Tree' is a graphic juxtaposition of three gold-painted skulls against a large almond tree stump painted black and red. The piece creates a profound imagery that Lewis describes as "spiritual art".

Lewis claims he set out to combine past life and nature in an effort to transcend boundaries and "take art where it has never been brought before". It is important to note that the skulls are real and, according to Lewis, they were found around the May Pen Cemetery area where skeletal remains are known to turn up after heavy rainfall.

Also included among Lewis' work are a host of repurposed artefacts that would have otherwise been considered worthless. To contest whether or not Lewis' work actually qualifies as visual art would, however, be a near-futile task, as some of the more "questionable" artists are always quick to point out that those who do not appreciate their work simply do not understand it.

Renowned art critic Clive Bell wrote that for any work to be considered visual art it must incite some aesthetic experience, producing what he calls "aesthetic emotion". Bell proposes that a work's artistic value is determined purely by its visual aspects and that the context, history or background of the work or the artist is completely unnecessary in this regard.


The question, though, isn't whether 'Head Less Tree' is truly a work of art, but rather if it is truly legal.

Rickards has also been stirring up his fair share of controversy within the British art society. The artist's installation titled 'Banksy Wall' centres around a demolished piece of wall which was apparently branded by the pseudonymous and equally controversial British artist - Banksy.

Known for his creative and usually tongue-in-cheek vandalism, Banksy had apparently done a variation of his now-famous 'Balloon Girl' on a wall in Mona, St Andrew, back in 2004.

Four years later, Rickards paid roughly US$1600 to have the wall removed, to have it sold to the highest bidder, after hearing about other Banksy items that have sold for what he describes as "a ridiculous amount of money".

Unfortunately, Banksy had set up a verification service called Pest Control to prevent people from "stealing" his creations off the street and selling them. So when no sale came, Rickards was stuck with a seemingly worthless, large piece of wall, sitting in his uncle's garage.

Rickards' installation at the exhibition is somewhat of a recreation of how the wall was stored and treated while it was in his possession, and features a projected video footage of the removal of the wall. The wall has been further smashed for the exhibition, and Rickards says that this was to reinforce that it was not at all about Banksy.

"The installation is about the perception of people (drunk Jamaicans, including myself), who never saw the wall as a great piece of art, but as a object that white people in the UK (and Brad Pitt) would probably pay tremendous amounts of money for," Rickards writes on his blog 'The Afflicted Yard'.

Rickards' 'Banksy Wall' has been featured on BBC and the artist says that after the exhibition the wall is likely to be sold.

"We've had enquires, but anyone who buys it has to buy the entire exhibit, which includes a lot of junk that was hand-picked from the Riverton City dump and sent in the same crate that the wall was shipped," Rickards told The Sunday Gleaner.