Renata Pari-Lewis

WHAT I HAVE HELD

12 June — 29 June 2024

Born 1975, Czechoslovakia
Lives and works in Sydney

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Represented by nanda\hobbs

WHAT I HAVE HELD
13 - 29 June, 2024
Opening drinks: Thursday 13 June, 6-8pm

Artist Talk: Renata Pari-Lewis in conversation with Christopher Allen, Art historian and critic (The Australian). Thursday 20 June, 6pm. RSVP HERE 

Renata Pari-Lewis: What I Have Held
Essay by John McDonald

Van Gogh was intoxicated by the “intense” landscapes and sunshine of Arles, in the south of France, when he took up residence in 1888. Renata Pari-Lewis, who arrived in the Provençal city in 2023, was excited to find a grand chateau lovingly restored to its former glory by a wealthy English financier. While Van Gogh was fleeing the gloom of the north, seeking the kind of clear, bright light he admired in Ukiyo-e prints, Pari-Lewis was far from her home in Sydney where one takes such light for granted.

From one exhibition to the next, Pari-Lewis has discovered that her preferred subject is a room in which every object, every detail tells a story about the occupant. The chateau that features in What I Have Held is the home of a collector who has filled it with paintings, tapestries, sculptures and antique furniture. It’s a personalised theatre assembled piece by piece, a time capsule of the ancien régime with all mod cons. In Pari-Lewis’s paintings the building becomes a stage without actors in which the furniture and objects play the starring roles.

When one thinks of the ways artists have depicted interiors over the centuries, most seem to have preferred still, empty spaces. In the rooms painted by the German Romantics there is almost always a figure lost in contemplation, and usually a window onto the outside world. In the 20th century, artists such as Vilhelm Hammershøi and Edward Hopper produced images of empty spaces in which the play of light takes on crucial significance. In such works we can’t help feeling that someone has just left the room or is set to make an entrance.

Pari-Lewis’s paintings are very different. She is not searching for that clear, limpid light that reveals every detail. On the contrary, she revels in the dark corners and shadows. In these pictures a window appears as a solid block of high-keyed colour in the midst of a cluttered space. It energises the rest of the composition, throwing light in the form of wristy swirls of paint onto the contents of a room. She works in a fluid, gestural manner, embracing abstract effects without ever letting go of recognisable forms. She may paint the wallpaper as a mass of flickering hieroglyphs, but its identity is never in doubt. A bust of the playwright Racine is wreathed in long strokes of paint in a vivid play of darkness and light. The backdrop, which may be a tapestry, takes on a fiery dimension.

There’s a distinctive drama in Pari-Lewis’s interiors. Each object reaches out to the next as she moves fluently between elements of a composition. There’s no dividing line between bed and bedside table, between curtain and carpet. Pictures and mirrors almost shudder on the walls, while a wall of books appears to squirm with life. One can feel the painter’s urgency in front of the motif as she devours the scene in front of her, striving to capture not just the image of a room but the feeling it inspires. Pari-Lewis had only a day to explore this chateau, taking down sketches and storing memories to be reignited later in the studio. The blurred lines and ambiguous objects may reflect her imperfect recollections, but they are only the starting point for paintings that quickly take on a life of their own. Whatever their origins, these pictures have become imaginary spaces, not just rooms in a chateau but maps of the artist’s mind.

John McDonald is art critic for the Sydney Morning Herald & film critic for the Australian Financial Review.

This project was made possible thanks to the NG Art Creative multidisciplinary artist residency, a not-for-profit international program supporting creatives globally.

\ Exhibition featured works

Renata Pari-Lewis

And Then

2023 \ Acrylic on board \ 29.5 x 38cm

Renata Pari-Lewis

Been Here Before

Acrylic on canvas \ 122 x 102cm

SOLD

Renata Pari-Lewis

Beforehand

2023 \ Acrylic on board \ 35 x 40cm

SOLD

Renata Pari-Lewis

Completely Made Up

2023 \ Acrylic and gouache on board \ 33 x 46.5cm

SOLD

Renata Pari-Lewis

Dissolving

2024 \ Acrylic on canvas \ 92 x 107cm

SOLD

Renata Pari-Lewis

Drawn

Acrylic on canvas \ 183 x 229cm

Renata Pari-Lewis

Echo

2024 \ Acrylic on canvas \ 122 x 102cm

SOLD

Renata Pari-Lewis

Estrangement

2023 \ Acrylic on board \ 40 x 35cm

SOLD

Renata Pari-Lewis

GET UP AND GET DRESSED

2023 \ Acrylic on canvas \ 183 x 229cm

Renata Pari-Lewis

Is it French?

2023 \ Acrylic on board \ 35 x 40cm

SOLD

Renata Pari-Lewis

Morning After

2024 \ 35 x 40cm \ Acrylic on board

SOLD

Renata Pari-Lewis

Not Myself Today

2023 \ Acrylic on board \ 100 x 100cm

Renata Pari-Lewis

Still

2023 \ Acrylic on board \ 40 x 35cm

SOLD

Renata Pari-Lewis

This Little Moment

2023 \ Acrylic on board \ 40 x 35cm

SOLD

Renata Pari-Lewis

Young Racine

2024 \ Acrylic on canvas, framed \ 122 x 102cm

\ Other exhibitions

Yoshio Honjo

The Serpent, the Courtesan and other Japanese Fables

23 July — 10 August 2024

COMING HOME

Group Exhibition

17 July — 27 July 2024

ONCE UPON A MIDNIGHT DREARY

Group Exhibition

13 July — 20 July 2024

Contact Us

to find out more about WHAT I HAVE HELD.

12 - 14 Meagher Street Chippendale, NSW 2008
Opening Hours
Monday to Friday, 9.00am - 5.30pm Saturday, 11am - 4pm Closed Public Holidays (and Easter Saturday)