Artwork By Mike Lewis

Paintings on Back of Plexiglass

Plan No. 8
Blind Seer

The unique look of these pieces results from a technique that is actually quite simple: Acrylic paint and collage elements are applied to the back side of acrylic plexiglass panels. The image is thus constructed in reverse of the usual order. Brush strokes and the blending of paints appear more vivid and obvious than usual. Also, by scratching through the paint and then filling in the scratched areas with paint or collage, I am able to meld drawing with painting evoking the look of etching monoprints. There are currently two series using this technique: the EVACUATION PLAN series (part of the YOU ARE HERE series) and the TIRESIAS series (related to the CREATRIX & SPHINX series).

The Tiresias series is loosely based on the myth of Tiresias, a blind prophet who started life as male, but was magically transformed into a woman when he drove his staff between copulating snakes. Years later as a woman she again encountered two snakes entwined and again drove her staff between them, transforming herself into a man (a new man?). Later Tiresias was brought before Zeus and Hera to settle an argument over which gender derived more pleasure during sex. "Women," said Tiresias, "enjoy it much more than men." His answer, offended Hera who punished him with blindness. And Zeus, unable to reverse Hera's actions compensated Tiresias by granting him clairvoyance.

The Tiresias paintings combine images and symbols from the myth. In many of them a mouth that is also an eye interacts with strange alphabet shapes, illegible to our eyes, unpronounceable to our lips. Only Tiresias can see or speak their coded truths. Male and female forms flow into one another while the carnal world of sexuality flows into the transcendent realm of prophets and gods.

Graphic design and signage are areas in which I have worked professionally for many years. Several qualities in graphic communications fascinate me. For one thing there is a formalist architecture that instantly conveys information and the relationship between bits of information. For another there are symbols and icons which amount to a universal pictographic language. And lastly, there is an air of authority, especially in signage and newspaper headlines, which almost always goes unquestioned.

Most of the Evacuation Plans play with the architecture of layout and design as a kind of formalist art space in which symbols, both familiar and original can interact. My purpose, however, is somewhat the opposite of most graphic communications. Whereas the purpose of signage is to present information, these art works offer ambiguities and innuendoes. And whereas signs regulate and direct our movements, these art works encourage the mind to wander.