Leah Hewson was born in Dublin in 1986. She attended the Dún Laoghaire Institute of Art, Design and Technology, graduating with a First-Class BA (Hons) degree in Fine Art in 2010. In 2015 Leah worked as a studio assistant with Sean Scully in New York, a creatively exhilarating experience that altered the direction of her own practice.
The recipient of many awards and prizes, Hewson’s third solo exhibition, Scintilla, opened to widespread acclaim at the RHA Ashford Gallery in 2017. Her work has also been selected for inclusion in many group exhibitions and art fairs, both in Ireland and internationally, and features in a growing number of significant public and private collections around the world. For example, she was commissioned to create two wall murals in the atrium space of the Meta European Headquarters in Dublin.
Hewson is continually searching for ways to access and explore the unconscious mind. The covert activity that continually runs in the background makes up 95% of brain activity and creates the basis of our individual character, thinking and behaviour. Research and concerns include cognition in vision, the importance of structure to the human psyche and context of colour within the overlap of psychology and neurology.
For Hewson, the introspective process of self-discovery is about the desire for excavation but also seeks to repel the same insight through escapism. Liberated self-expression in paint and constructed mathematical formulas in installation and animation result in optical illusions of dimension, light and pattern that linger on the peripheral areas that poke at our visual perception. The multitude of cohesive and combative layers reveals the complexity of this unconscious space while each piece becomes a documented glimpse of the activity here.
Hewson creates an abstract sensory vocabulary, through colour and material exploration, that activates and celebrates this part of the brain that is often taken for granted, while ultimately seeking connectivity with the viewer through our collective unconscious.
Leah’s prints for Ipsos B&A have their origins in the historic Spomenik Monuments (in the former Yugoslavia) which inspired her with their remarkable variety of abstract shapes and forms.
In these prints — titled KOS-mahy, POHD-gar and KOH-zah-rah — she investigates what the concept of a monument might stand for in the contemporary world, radically re-examining the characteristic icons of the Spomenik forms in light of her own signature practice.
Each print in this series was created using multiple techniques — etching, photopolymer, screenprint and emboss. The initial works were conceived by Leah digitally and then Transferred onto copper plates so that she could create drawn elements by hand and then etch them using traditional processes including hard ground line, soft ground, sugarlift, and spitbite. The monuments — created in Photoshop — were made into photopolymer plates which were printed underneath the etched elements of the image. The screen layer provided a pop of neon colour, mirroring Leah’s visual vocabulary and distinctive style. The final layer of the prints was created using a blind emboss. Laser cut aluminum plates were made from Leah’s designs, and these were put through the press at a high pressure. The use of the heavy Somerset Tub-sized 410gsm handmade etching paper emphasises the sculpurality of the forms, creating prints that become objects in themselves.