“One of the things I learned to do was to remove sound from my films. Sound interrupts your thinking and it stops you from looking. I like my films to be looked at with the viewer having absolute freedom to do what he or she wants.” 2009
Mark Lewis is renowned for his investigation of the cinematic image and its representation of modernity. Lewis is interested in exploring how the pictorial tradition “can continue through film and if so how that tradition itself has been transformed by film.” In his forty plus films, he has investigated the construction, language and effect of the cinematic image by working within a focused set of parameters specific to filmmaking. At times Lewis hires professional actors and crew, has sets built and uses professional equipment, but most of his films are silent, limited to about four minutes, the standard length of a roll of 35mm film stock, and have minimal narrative.
Lewis trained at Harrow College of Art (London) and the Polytechnic of Central London. At the beginning of his career he wanted to be a photographer but by the mid-1990s while teaching at the University of British Columbia, Lewis began to experiment with film. He worked in Vancouver and Toronto before moving to the UK, where he produces his films and is Professor of Fine Art at Central St. Martins College of Art and Design, University of the Arts, London. He is co-founder and co-editor of Afterall- A Journal of Art, Context and Enquiry and editor of Afterall Books.
Rather than presenting us with narratives, each film by Mark Lewis employs a different camera technique: travelling shot, zoom, dolly pan, fixed camera or 360º camera rotation. Through this investigation of the camera’s structuring of film’s viewing experience, the film or camera itself becomes the subject.
In the early 2000s, Lewis examined in a number of films the particularity of location. In Smithfield the location and camera technique take the leading roles as the camera pans around a curious wedge-shaped building in an historic area of London, while in Isosceles, the camera circumnavigates a historic building that once housed public toilets for workers. Interested in finding ways to fuse the pictorial tradition with the art of movement, Lewis avoids presenting his films according to the conventions of cinema. Although most are shot on 35 mm film they are then transferred to the most current video technology and presented as large projections in the gallery space, directly on the walls adjacent to painting and photography. Viewers of these films enter or exit as they engage with Lewis’s films at any point as they are typically looped; their short duration parallels the length of time one might spend contemplating a painting or photograph.
In 2007, Mark Lewis received the Gershon Iskowitz Prize and the Brit Art Doc Foundation Award. Mark Lewis represented Canada at the 2009 Venice Biennale.