The perception attached to various forms of art always seems to change over time. Most recently, we’ve heard great artists such as Picasso himself; being referred to as ‘overrated’, by a new, younger class of artists and collectors respectively. With breakthroughs in technology, craft and a return to acute prowess, we’ve seen an emerging class of artists that effortlessly amalgamate different materials, mediums and methods to create artworks that resonate far out into the cosmos.
Aaron Lewis is a 25-year old artist from Philadelphia, USA. Educated at Penn State University, his work is equal parts ancient and futuristic. A cosmic coming-together forming a hypersexualised inter-dimensional narrative with the timeless black figure at its centre.
Greatly inspired by the work of musicians Rick James, Prince, Eartha Kitt, Yasiin Bey, Loaded Lux as well as artists René Magritte and Dalí, Lewis, who goes by the name ‘Shamaan’, creates artworks suspended in the limitlessness of time which echo the most archaic of human urges - sex.
We spoke to Lewis about his work:
OCEAN AFRICA: Tell us about your journey, when did you decide to focus on art?
AARON LEWIS: I believe art is in my design; the very core, the stream.
OA: The subjects in your art focus on ancient ideas of blackness - does this hold special significance to you?
AL: It plays a huge significance. It’s almost pivotal that I show those ancient ideas of us in all forms and dimensions.
OA: The language of love is evident in your work. How important is human connection to you?
AL: Human connection is forever essential. There are times we seclude ourselves with human connection and then when we try to connect again, there’s discourse & confusion. Those layers of passion breathe in my art.
OA: Tell us about the series ‘WHILE YOU SLEPT’?
AL: ‘WHILE YOU SLEPT’ is a visual series that is up for interpretation within the title itself. You could view those pieces and I could simply be saying, “While you slept, I was awake.” or, “While you slept, I left you.”, or even, “While you slept, I slept with her.”….All in the perception.
OA: The art piece ‘PORTAL’ is a breathtaking, transcendent - tell us how it came to be?
AL: ‘PORTAL’ came to be as a full body observance of the black woman, I wanted to evoke intensity, strength and vulnerability. The warm colour juxtaposed by her cold stare as well as her split body helped me capture those elements.
OA: Walk us through your process…
AL: The process changes many times as I, along with my art evolve. At times I can best describe it as a still moment before I allow myself to go blank and the body or whatever I’m feeling at the time to operate.
OA: Which artists inspire your style?
AL: I can say the spirits of Rick James, Prince, D’angelo, Cree Summer, Dalí and Magritte have an influence on my material.
OA: Women are a prevalent fixture in your artwork. What do you favour most about the feminine form?
AL: The feminine form moves something in all of us; something that can’t be contained - intoxicating & beautiful.
OA: Is there a particular state of mind you must find yourself in as you approach your work; music, scents, that set your mood to work?
AL: There’s a big “visit” that takes place that sets my mood to work. A visit to the past of my life, whether good or bad or minor moments that I can recover. They allow me to see everything more clear; almost close to an outer-body experience.
OA: Whose work have you seen recently that moved you?
AL: I was recently moved by the visual body journals of Zalika U Ibaorimi.
OA: Women play such a pivotal role in all our lives - tell us about the women you admire and why?
AL: I could go on endlessly about this question. From my mother to my older sisters but the woman that sticks out is a close friend whom has left this world early but is still a beautiful force in it and always will be. Her name is Helen Nigussie.
OA: What great change in society would you hope to see children of the future enjoy?
AL: I’d like to see the lust for self education growing more with them. They are rewriting the rules which is a beautiful sight to see.
OA: Where is the art game headed and how can marginalised artists win?
AL: I feel it’s expanding into so many avenues. Artists of the more quiet mediums are breaking through.
OA: How can technology better serve artists?
AL: We can reach thousands quicker, can we touch them the same is the question.
OA: Wildcard: tell us something you’ve never said to anyone?
AL: I was once in a dancehall and danced with a girl who placed her palm on my forehead in the manner that Chucky did in the movie Child’s Play when he transferred his soul….I miss her.
OA: Dream walls: where would you love to see your work exhibited.
AL: On the bodies of beautiful women…Or somewhere in Fishtown, Philly.
(All images courtesy of the artist)
Aaron Lewis is based in Philadelphia. Follow his Instagram for more cosmic works.