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Bill Lewis
Birth name William Lewis
Born 1 August 1953 (1953-08-01) (age 56)
Maidstone, Kent, England
Nationality British
Field Painting, poetry, fiction
Movement Stuckism
Works God Is an Atheist: She Doesn't Believe in Me

William "Bill" Lewis (born 1 August 1953) is an English artist, story-teller, poet and mythographer. [1] He was a founder-member of The Medway Poets and of the Stuckists art group.[1]


Life and career

Bill Lewis was born in Maidstone, Kent, England. He attended Westborough Secondary Modern School and left in 1968 with no qualifications.[1] In 1975, with his friend, Rob Earl, he started a series of poetry readings called Outcrowd at the Lamb pub (later re-named Drakes' Crab and Oyster House] by the River Medway in Maidstone.[2] Both Charles Thomson and Billy Childish, the later co-founders of the Stuckists group, read at these events. [3]

He spent a year unloading trucks in Cheeseman department store in Maidstone, then in 1976 he had a nervous breakdown, attempted suicide and spent three months in Crossfield psychiatric ward, West Malling.[1] 1977-1978, he studied Foundation Art at Medway College of Art and Design,[1] at the same time as Childish and Philip Absolon, another future Stuckist.[3]

In 1979, his interest in Berlin Cabaret, combined with the current punk culture, led him to joining up with Childish, Charles Thomson, Sexton Ming, Rob Earl and Miriam Carney to found the anarchic poetry performance group, The Medway Poets,[2] which he named.[1] The group performed in colleges, pubs and festivals, including the International Cambridge Poetry Festival in 1981.[2] It was the subject of a TV South documentary the following year.[4] In Lewis's performances, he "jumped on a chair, threw his arms wide (at least once hitting his head on the ceiling) and pretended he was Jesus."[2]

In 1980, he had a show of paintings at Peter Waite's Rochester Pottery Gallery, as did Thomson, Childish, Sanchia Lewis (no relation) and Sexton Ming, the last two also founder members of the Stuckist group.[3]

1978-82 he was the CSSD Porter at West Kent General Hospital,[1] which provided subject matter for many of his poems at the time. He knew Tracey Emin and helped edit her short stories for her first book, Six Turkish Tales (Hangman books 1987).[4] Since 1982, he has been a full-time artist (though he gave up visual art at this time[5]) with "occasional forays into tomato picking",[6] In 1985, he was Writer-in-Residence at the Brighton Festival.[7] In 1997, he began to make prints and paintings once more.[5]

Bill Lewis (standing, right) with the Stuckists group at the Real Turner Prize Show, 2000

In 1999 he was one of the founding members of the Stuckist art group along with Childish, Thomson and Ming. Lewis has been featured prominently in all the key Stuckist shows. In 2001, he taught mythology at Kent Children's University.[1] In 2004, he was one of the fourteen "founder and featured" artists in The Stuckists Punk Victorian held at the Walker Art Gallery for the Liverpool Biennial.[8] He was quoted about Remodernism in the book accompanying the show:

We think with our whole person. The mind is free from the bone prison of the skull. We are intellectuals of the heart. Just as modernist thought was affected by Einstein's Theory of Relativity (as can be seen by Picasso's paintings for instance) the New Paradigm that Re-modernism identifies itself with is one made possible by the discovery of quantum mechanics.[9]

In 2005 he founded The Medway Delta Press.[5] The first project was a limited edition set of 3 CDs entitled Voices From The Medway Delta, featuring work by Billy Childish, Sexton Ming, Chris Broderick, Bill Lewis, and other names in the Medway scene.[5] The Medway Delta Press has also published a DVD documentary by Carol Lynn on Stuckism.[5]

He was one of the ten "leading Stuckists"[10] in the Go West exhibition at Spectrum London gallery in October 2006.

He has had a solo show at the Rochester International Photography Festival.[11]


His position in art in many ways stands for the Stuckist ethic.[12] He is not part of the mainstream art world, and is self-taught—acknowledging that "experts" may consider that he "can't paint properly"—yet is confident of the worth of his art: "I do this because I can’t do anything else and I’ve spent 20 years doing it."[12] He says the importance of his work is not in the technique, but "what's underneath it"; he redraws or repaints an image as many as eighty times, until he is satisfied with it.[1] He names as influences Marc Chagall, Paula Rego, Ana Maria Pacheco, films and comic books.[1] He has stressed sincerity in art: "People are never sure if we are being ironic or not. We are not. We are coming from the heart."[12]

He often uses symbols in his work,[3] frequently imagery from Jewish, Christian and Pagan traditions.[12] A white dog that appears in paintings is a trickster figure that indicates the human shadow; a blindfold woman, applying make-up, is linked to the Shekinah.[3] These symbols are mostly "unconsciously generated" to create "magical realist" paintings.[3] He said of his painting, God Is an Atheist: She Doesn't Believe in Me:

Bill Lewis. God Is an Atheist: She Doesn't Believe in Me.
I had this move through Christianity and Judaism towards something else—I'm not quite sure what yet. The woman represents both my idea of holiness and the feminine part of myself, which is my link to the Great Mystery—that otherness that you sense behind things but you don't know what it is. I used to call it God, but now that seems a very lame word. In old paintings the dog would have represented fidelity, but it could also be an anagram of God or a trickster figure who illuminates the human shadow (the buried part of us). None of these things are separate: they only appear separate. My paintings are like a magic mirror in fairy stories. I hold it up to try to see my true likeness. Sometimes it takes me years to work out what the symbols mean. That's why I do them—to try and find out something.[1]


Lewis has published six books of poetry and three of short stories; he has made five reading tours in the United States and one in Nicaragua.[11] His writing is included in The Green Man (Viking Press), World Fantasy Award winner,[11] as well as The Year's Best Fantasy and Horror, 1997 and 1998.[1] His work was published in The Grandchildren of Albion, edited by Michael Horowitz.[5]


See also

Notes and references

Lewis's work (4 paintings on the left) in The Stuckists Summer Show, Stuckism International Gallery, 2003.
  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Milner, Frank, ed. The Stuckists Punk Victorian, p.86, National Museums Liverpool 2004, ISBN 1-902700-27-9. Pages 6-30, Charles Thomson's essay, "A Stuckist on Stuckism", can be found online at
  2. ^ a b c d Milner, p.8
  3. ^ a b c d e f Evans, Katherine, ed. The Stuckists, p.6, Victoria Press 2000, ISBN 0-907165-27-3
  4. ^ a b Milner, p.9
  5. ^ a b c d e f Sherwin, Brian. "Art Space Talk: Bill Lewis",, 29 December 2006. Retrieved 6 April 2008.
  6. ^ Buckman, David, Dictionary of Artists in Britain since 1945, p.954, Art Dictionaries, Bristol, 2006, ISBN 095326095-X
  7. ^ "Lewis, William Edward", International Who’s Who in Poetry 2005, 13th Edition. Retrieved online from BookRags, 17 September 2009.
  8. ^ "The Stuckists Punk Victorian", Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool. Retrieved 6 April 2008.
  9. ^ Milner, pp.29-30
  10. ^ "Go West", The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 29 March 2008.
  11. ^ a b c "Bill Lewis", Walker Art Gallery, National Museums Liverpool. Retrieved 6 April 2008.
  12. ^ a b c d Moss, Richard. "Stuckist's Punk Victorian Gatecrashes Walker's Biennial", Culture24, 17 September 2004. Retrieved 24 November 2009.

External links

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