Vessels of the Soul

Hew Locke: The Wine Dark Sea February 24 – April 1, 2016

Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art, New York

Hew Locke, For those in Peril on the Sea, installation view, Perez Museum, 2013. Photo: Daniel AzoulayHew Locke, an Anglo-Guyanese artist who lives in Great Britain and spent his formative years in Guyana, consistently explores themes of race, colonialism, displacement, the creation of cultures, and the visual codes of power, drawing on a deeply personal visual language. In a complex and war torn contemporary world where we continue to see waves of refugees fleeing lives of persecution and privations, Hew Locks’ work is as contemporary as it is historical; embodying both metaphorical and symbolic meaning.

Hew Locke: The Wine Dark Sea presents new works by the artist that highlight Locke’s acclaimed sculptures of boats, which occupy an important place in his personal iconography. "The wine dark sea" is a description of the Mediterranean used by Homer throughout The Odyssey, and the phrase is repeated by Derek Walcott in his epic poem Omeros set mainly in the Hew Locke, The Wine Dark Sea, BB, 2016, mixed media, 30 x 38 5/8 x 13Caribbean, and referencing characters from The Iliad.  Locke’s visual poem likewise points up the universality of many of our experiences.

Hew Locke, The Wine Dark Sea, X, 2016, mixed media, 19 3/4 x 48 3/8 x 17 3/4This new series of 25 vessels of varied scale and hues are suspended from the ceiling, creating a flotilla at eye level. Incorporating contemporary and historically resonant vessels — clippers and container ships, battleships and lifeboats — Locke has created a spectacular sculptural environment.  Locke’s work articulates this environment as filled with hope, potential prosperity and gratification, as well as despair, anguish, and suffering. This narrative resonates deeply with the tides of refugees fleeing to the sea from war, oppression, and poverty, but also with those viewers for whom migration and displacement are part of family history. A ship is a symbolic object; vessel of the soul, means of escape, both safety and danger. According to Locke, “We’re all floating on the same ocean.  As a child and young man I sailed the Atlantic.  At sea, a twist of fate can send a super-yacht down — it can be an equalizer between rich and poor.”