Galerie Hubert Winter

James Lewis
Before the hyle
1. July – 27. August 2016
Adieu, then, to the plains and forests, to the coral shores, and the fragrant isles of Australind.
Die letzten Zeilen. In: Henry Taunton, Australind. London, E. Arnold, 1903.

“Throughout the history of subjectivity, Cogito is related to its shadowy double “pharmakon”, which is madness; madness is inscribed into the very (pre)history of Cogito itself, it is part of its transcendental genesis.” [1]

Before the hyle, James Lewis’ first solo exhibition at Galerie Hubert Winter, establishes a dialogue with this suppressed and obscure twin of subjectivity; it addresses a state before Logos, before the naming of things, a state of chaos, of disintegration.
Lewis’ artworks speak of a primary language, a language that is aware of its own indetermination. This volatile semiosis is mirrored in the material Lewis uses. The unfired clay, formed into a table and littered with earthen coffee cups, periscopes and other objects that are somehow associated to the mystic gift of clairvoyance, used in its unrefined materiality is exposed to its own corrosion, to its eventual return to dust. These psychic objects James Lewis forms from memory are reminiscent of a Golem invocation, retracing the word to its original meaning: an amorphous, unformed raw material, usually out of stone and clay, before it has been given a name, when all spirit is just matter.

The fungus pleurotus ostreatus that is growing on this raw clay table (The fifth kingdom, 2016) works as an agent of decay, as their fruiting bodies blossom and wilt, their invisible, ghostly mycelium is slowly using up any nutrients provided in the soil, rendering it barren.


These fungi can function as a trajectory for Lewis’ narration, their systematic ambiguity and decentred neural network becoming a figure through which one can read the works: just as fungi need a host to corrode and break up organic matter into their molecular components, James Lewis’ objects are infested with corruption: the corruption of memory, systems, logic, the viral recoding of matter and anima. The table becomes the nucleus of the exhibition from which these mycelian arteries spread and with it spreads the decay. Seeping into the floor, fossilizing Lewis’ objects, corroding the meaning and returning them to a nameless, unhewn state before subjectivity.

James Lewis (born 1986 in London), lives and works in Vienna and Paris.

August 2016 End the Agony, Futura: Karlin Studios, Prague
June 2016 Opening Stable, Futur2, Vienna
March 2016 not really really, Collection Frédéric de Goldschmidt, Brussels

[1] See Slavoj Zizek, Less Than Nothing. Hegel and the Shadow of Dialectical Materialism. London 2012, p. 330.

  • James Lewis. Before the hyle. exhibition overview (PDF)