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Mark Lewis first recipient of the Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the AGO

May 16th, 2007

On May 31, photographer and filmmaker Mark Lewis will be jointly recognized by the Art Gallery of Ontario and the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation for his contribution to the visual arts in Canada. As a recipient of the 2007 Gershon Iskowitz Prize at the AGO, Lewis will receive a $25,000 award and his work will be featured in a temporary exhibition at the AGO in 2008.

The AGO’s permanent collection includes one of Lewis’ most famous works – Algonquin Park, Early March (2002), in which he uses a slow reverse zoom. The four-minute film, shot in Ontario, begins with whiteness that the viewer perceives to be sky, but as the image unfolds it is revealed to be the frozen surface of a lake.

Image: Mark Lewis
Algonquin Park, Early March, 2002
35mm film transferred to digital betacam videotape; 4 minutes, colour, no sound
Purchased with financial support of the Canada Council for the Arts Acquisition Assistance program and with the assistance of the Estate of Christian Claude, the E. Wallace Fund and the Art Gallery of Ontario Contemporaries, 2005
© 2007 Mark Lewis

“Lewis returns to the locale made familiar and famous by the Group of Seven painters, artists such as Tom Thomson, and realizes a work of startling revelation,” says David Moos, AGO curator of contemporary art and a member of the jury that selected Lewis. “As in many of Lewis’ films, the viewer is transported in both narrative and perceptual terms.”

Lewis has always been fascinated with the social phenomenon and power of film. His work explores the pictorial possibilities of this art form, often using 35mm film, professional actors and basic cinematic techniques characteristic of avant-garde and mainstream cinema. His works seek to make connections between art history and cinema.

Some of Lewis’ other popular works include: Rear Projection (Molly Parker) (2006) and Rear Projection (Golden Rod) (2006). Molly Parker is a filmed portrait of the actress that is superimposed on a backdrop of an abandoned gas station. It has been described as a Renaissance cinematic portrait. Golden Rod was filmed in the same location, but from a different angle. It explores the disorienting effect of the camera’s slow movement through the landscape. Both works use a cinematic technique from the 1930’s that allowed stars to be ‘transported’ to dangerous or exotic landscapes. This technique has been supplemented by what is now called a green screen and digital technology.

Mark Lewis was born in Hamilton, Ontario, in 1957. He now lives and works in London, England. He attended Harrow College of Art (London) and the Polytechnic of Central London. Starting out as a photographer, Lewis eventually began to experiment with film in the mid-1990’s. He is the co-founder of Afterall – a research and publishing organization – and founding editor of the Afterall Journal. Every issue of the journal brings together five international artists and discusses their works. Lewis is also the principal lecturer of research at Central St. Martins School of Art and Design, in London.

Earlier this year the AGO and the Iskowitz Foundation partnered to raise awareness of the visual arts in Canada with the renaming of the annual award established 20 years ago by Canadian painter Gershon Iskowitz (1921-1988). Iskowitz acknowledged that it was a grant that enabled him to achieve his distinctive style. The AGO is home to the artist’s archives, which include early works on paper, sketchbooks and memorabilia.