Tau Lewis

I am interested in using what’s available to me, […] building portraits of the landscape that are also telling stories about Black identity. — Tau Lewis

Tau Lewis: Symphony

Tau Lewis’ Symphony is one of the newest additions to the Gallery’s Contemporary Projects series.

Located in the Rotunda – one of the Gallery’s busiest crossroads – Symphony greets visitors with open arms, among textile and leather floral garlands that extend high above. A year in the making, Symphony is the first work by Lewis to become part of the national collection, and is also the Toronto-born, Brooklyn-based artist’s inaugural presentation at the National Gallery of Canada. 

In Symphony, reclaimed clothing and fabrics have been repurposed into an expressive portrait of a “mutable being, devoid of gender, that can transmute into blossoms.” The sculpture is a remarkable example of Lewis’ aesthetic vision and material sensibilities. Her “soft portraits” — as she calls her figurative works — incorporate recycled, found garments and textiles sourced in places the artist has lived or visited, including her ancestral home in Jamaica.

All of Lewis’ sculptures, quilts and mixed-media installations involve complex hand processes such as sewing and stitching, carving and assemblage. Physical involvement in the work’s creation is essential to Lewis, whose art is rooted in a commitment to healing personal, collective, and historical traumas through labour, especially in relation to histories and lived experiences across the African diaspora.


Symphony (detail), 2020–21, various recycled and hand-dyed fabrics, recycled leather, cotton batting, beads, acrylic paint, PVA glue, metal hoop skirt, pipe, seashells and wire. © Tau Lewis. Photo : Flo Ngala


Opening Soon


National Gallery of Canada Rotunda
380 Sussex Drive
Ottawa, ON K1N 9N4
Tau Lewis

Photo: Flo Ngala


About the Artist

Tau Lewis is a Jamaican-Canadian artist based in Brooklyn. Upcoming presentations for the artist include a solo exhibition at the Haus der Kunst, Munich, and at Prospect 5, the New Orleans Biennial entitled Yesterday we said tomorrow, in addition to group shows in Boston, Los Angeles, Iowa, and London, UK.

Lewis has led numerous quilt-making and textile workshops, including a collaboration with the Roots and Wings Foundation during her solo exhibition, Tau Lewis: when last you found me here (2018) at the Agnes Etherington Art Centre in Kingston, Ontario, where she was also Stonecroft Artist-in-Residence.  

The artist has received grants from the Canada Council for the Arts and the Ontario Arts Council, and has been awarded the Frieze Frame Stand Prize (2018), and the William and Meredith Saunderson Prize for Emerging Artists, The Hynatyshyn Foundation, Ottawa, Canada (2017).