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 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.