George H. Lewis is an internationally acclaimed British artist, painter, photographer and speaker known for his exhibits over wide areas of the UK, Europe, the US and the Middle East. In 2016, George lectured at the United Nations on the intersection of art, science, mysticism and spirituality. Recently, George shared his story with Veronica Farmer author of Made Beautiful by Scars.
Image of George H. Lewis by Peter Warrick @peterwarrickphotographer
I was born an artist. I am a communicator and in some way I have no choice but to create the images that I do. I grew up in Cornwall, the west of England on the Coast. This is a place full of wild magic. My parent’s farm lies next to Tintagel Castle where King Arthur once lived.
I have always been an Outsider looking in on society. Consequently, as a child I internalized everything as I had no mentors. I grew up in a male dominated world from the age of seven at an all-boys boarding school, where emotion was considered feminine and weak. But perhaps having had that sort of life meant that I had a great desire to go out and carve my own experiential world. I thought to support others and support humanity in all its guises. I refused to accept that I would live an uninspiring life, where becoming old by 50 was the norm.
Being a painter and a photographer has always been who I am. I was 14-years old when my father gave me my first professional camera and by the time I was 17, I had a darkroom and that same year, I showed my first watercolour exhibition. For many years I kept the two worlds of painting and photography totally separate.
Atlantic Expression. Carolinas. Acrylic and Resin on Canvas by George H. Lewis
Today I still paint and photograph independently, but in the past few years I have been blending them into mixed media. For me, photography represents the left brain and all its rational chemical expression; while painting is the emotion and intuition of the feminine right brain. By blending the two, I believe a corpus callosum can be created, a fully formed approach between the two realms, rather than subjugation of one of the parts. I like what this does, this marrying of the two. A trick of the eye, the brain cannot see where one finishes and the other begins and I like how this forces you out of your rational hemisphere. This blend forces you to stop, for just a moment and ask a most important question “How does this work make me feel?”
Breath of Fire Mountains and Trees of Bhutan. Mixed Media Gouache and Print with Indian ink on French Pressed Watercolour Paper by George H. Lewis
Connecting people to how they feel lies at the heart of unifying people. I had an amazing 4-5 years in the Middle East that touched my soul. For a year or so I was the court painter for the Sultan of Oman. I worked under the Ministry of Culture and Art in Abu Dhabi having exhibitions there and I painted and took many photographs through out that region. I also spent a month living with the Al Rashidi, a Bedouin tribe in the desert of Saudi Arabia living off camel’s milk and goat. Having gone to a very strict English boarding school was very good training for me out there, it helped me accept each day as it presented itself in the desert, a beautiful but a severe way of life.
Al Iman (Faith) Gouache and Pen and Ink on Arabic Paper 2010 by George H. Lewis
It is incredible when you are in that part of the world, especially with what has been happening in the region for the past few years. When you are under that canopy of stars, surrounded by such incredible beauty, everything else dissolves and you find the Unity. I have tried in my work to show a different side of the Middle East that often isn’t explored in the media. A side that is important for us to know is there.
As I travel, the places I experience design my art and this is a constant evolution. The idea of working in only one way, solely in watercolour, just in oil or photography alone is very painful for me. I am called to constantly explore life past the static. Travelling asks for this evolutionary process, creating art in Bhutan in the Himalayas, requires a very different understanding from working in the desert with the Bedouin tribes of Arabia.
George H. Lewis in Bhutan with the monks at Punakha Dzong
As I move and evolve my work and my life, I keep focused by keeping attention on what I’m doing in the present. Bhutan is very special to me right now. Last year I was asked to be an Ambassador for Gross National Happiness for Bhutan – this is a metric that seeks to change and challenge the concept of Gross National Product. GNP only measures what you and I can trade with each other; it doesn’t measure how we relate as human beings, our families, our joy and the beauty of community and happiness. I have done some portraits of the royal family there and I take people on spiritual trips to Bhutan a couple of times a year. It’s a beautiful sacred environment.
I hear the Gong. Bhutan, Indian Pen and Ink on Chinese Paper by George H. Lewis
For me when I am painting a portrait, I want to understand the spirit of the person I am focused on. I studied politics and philosophy at University, so I am interested in power, but power in terms of energy, not for power’s sake. With my work I have been privileged to have the opportunity to sit with people who have huge material, political, earthly power and it gives me the opportunity to ask the question of what can be done with that kind of power, how can it be used wisely, sagaciously. My work is to suggest often silently “How are you going to use that power in a way that will allow your next incarnation to be a better one, for our world to be more than it is now for the children to come.”
President Obasanjo of Nigeria, Abuja, Nigeria 2013 Oil on Canvas by George H. Lewis
Having been on this travelling journey has given me somewhat of an international perspective. Last year I lectured on the intersection of art, science, spirituality, Buddhism and mysticism for the UN. I think human beings are expanding and evolving. Now is our chance to enter a new era of human integration. It’s time for us to integrate past the differences of age, gender, race, religion and ethnicity. Travelling the world and showing the images created out of those places is something I can do to show that integration.
To be a fully actualized human being, a spiritual being having a human existence requires us to be able to focus on who we each are, but also to look up to stars and understand our Atman (a sanskrit word meaning the cosmic soul) Until the human being is able to connect to that higher awareness, that collective consciousness, humanity will never be integrated. Plastic in the ocean will always remain there because until we all do the inner journey, until we actually come together and remember that we are all part of the one eco-system and integrate that, we cannot move forward.
Trinity at the Taj Taj Mahal, Agra, India Printed onto Metal by George H. Lewis
Most people only get to that place of deep connectedness, feel it rather than just intellectualize it, when they have walked through a great life scar. For some, they have faced the possibility of death, or lost someone dear to them. In many ways these experiences can be a blessing, but it doesn’t have to continue to be a desperate event waking each of us up. When we have true community around us, we can support each other to see, feel and grow at a much deeper level.
It’s a sad thing that most artists and important storytellers are not able to focus solely on their art. The contemporary art world is very harsh, obsessed with selling work purely for corporations for investment purposes. 80% of those collections go into vaults, into storage away from being seen. As I become more successful, I would like to use that influence to support artists who have a message for healing. Artists who work with this focus need to be protected, supported and nourished. As we move into this new human age, we have to support those types of people more because we haven’t done that enough in the past.
I am surrounded in New York by a world focused on money, beauty and monotheism. Most people have been fed fake narratives, false stories, to keep them in check, to keep them nice and safe as human beings but not really growing. Spirituality and sexuality, are the hallmarks of what I explore through my artwork, energy that is fundamental to being human. We either choose to ignore these interests and so this energy comes out in nefarious ways or we can embrace these important human experiences and understand them with love and compassion.
I Shared the Holy Spirit Artist proof of Limited Edition of 7, Chromogenic print onto archival photographic paper, framed by George H. Lewis
Ultimately for younger people who are losing faith or hope in the fragmentation of civilization, the answer is to know that we are our own destiny. I am empathic to certain people’s addictions. I understand that we have created a world that is at times very cruel and competitive, and for those more sensitive to that, they can turn to drugs, alcohol, sex in order to dull the pain, the suffering and the loneliness. Most people have an escape of sorts, whether it is over-working or over-exercising, some people just hide their addictions better than others.
I believe we have to be optimistic and keep our faith in humanity. I think the structures that lead us haven’t, these structures are old and divide people and we need new structures to support all of us. It is time to allow different archetypes to come into the boardroom of our world. To have a philosopher along with a practical doctor, an artist alongside a lawyer combining ideas. If we pool our resources and have respect for people who bring different things, this is how we can create a global civilization. It is possible but we have to believe in it. We are our own divinity. We can co-create our futures together if we remember what unifies us. All humans really want is to be understood, loved, appreciated and respected.
In the most humble sense, my art attempts to join those who seek a new global human identity one that transcends differences, whether racial, ethnic, religious or sexual - it is predicated on mutual understanding compassion and respect and it celebrates the beauty of difference. Empathy is at the heart of how I live and the art I create.
Two Faced Abu Dhabi, UAE Limited Edition of 5 by George H. Lewis
About George H. Lewis ,
New York Contemporary Portrait Artist, Photographer
George H. Lewis, based in New York, is an internationally acclaimed British artist, painter, photographer and speaker known for his exhibits over wide areas of the UK, Europe, the US and the Middle East. His art is featured among the collections of the Sultan of Oman; Robert Holmes Tuttle, US Ambassador to the United Kingdom; Prince Hassan of Jordan, and the Maharaja of Jodhpur in India. His work is also found in the inventories of the legendary designer Valentino, the English National Ballet, the Duchess of Cornwall, the Royal Bank of Scotland, the World Trade Organization, the Asia Society in New York, and many of the world's cultural leaders and organizations.
An inveterate world traveler and lecturer, he has lived throughout the Middle East, including Oman, Kuwait, and the UAE, notably among the Al Rashedi tribe in the Empty Quarter, the largest sand desert in the world. Currently residing in New York City, the focus of his work rests on themes of interfaith and intercultural subjects that explore the quality of empathy.
George H. Lewis painting acrylic and print on canvas for his “Deluge” series. This piece is entitled “Andromeda and Ophelia
@madebeautifulbyscars is a human global story series created by Author and Therapist Veronica Farmer, capturing real stories from men and women who have refused to let life scars hold them back from creating an extraordinary life.
Made Beautiful by Scars is a powerful movement for change around how we see our life scars. Instead of hiding our wounds, we share them and the lessons richly learned.
Our storytellers are everyday people alongside those in the public eye - internationally acclaimed artists, musicians, writers, actors, world record athletes, scientists and eco-warriors. These stories are raw, real and unputdownable! In our wired in world, these short stories offer a peak into the rich workings of a vulnerable scarred heart and heal our own.
Share your scar - Heal your scar- Heal the Scars of others!