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2 September 2008

Some lively new work is on show as part of the St Ives September Festival

When the press release for 2006's recycled art exhibition Re-Worked at Penarth's Washington Gallery read 'One entry offered himself as a recycled exhibit, as well as his exhibit of orange cartons, collected from where he slept rough.' I knew I'd stumbled across an individual. Graham Lewis arrived in St Ives as the colony's Big Issue vendor; proving even disabled people can become homeless. But life hadn't always been on the downside, as a young man he'd studied art in Doncaster –

Another Doorway, mixed media painting by Graham Lewis

Another Doorway, mixed media painting by Graham Lewis

Four years ago the local council re-housed Graham, releasing him to pick up his brushes again. "I was lucky, after a while I'd rebuilt the confidence to approach local gallery owners, and after much pestering Bob Devereux agreed to represent me at The Salt House." But that wasn't enough for Graham, his lifelong support for disability arts, demanded more.

Last year the Newlyn Art Gallery member, who's also served time with Tate St Ives, applied to join the board of south-west dada Equata (he covered their Salisbury re-launch as Kaleido for DAO in February.) Although not accepted for the job he impressed then-director Richard Cragg suffice to be invited to join the steering committee for Cornwall's first disability arts festival. Alongside cardboard-sculptor James Lake and blind-artist Barry Goodfellow, Graham's expressionist abstracts provided a significant contribution to 'Djamu!' (meaning 'I am here!' in Aborigine.) at Penzance's Acorn Arts Centre. Now he's working with Acorn director Toni Kirk to implement a dada for Cornwall. He's also served as an ambassador for Equata to Disability Arts in Shropshire's @Barriers' project, and to Edinburgh Fringe. So maybe there's some truth in karma?

St Ives' September Arts Show runs alongside St Ives September Festival, a cultural highpoint for West Cornwall featuring fourteen beautiful, yet affordable, pieces. "It's easy to stay a big fish in a little pond," maintains Graham cautiously, "but in town of four hundred working artists from a population of ten thousand it's nerve-wracking! But they're all my babies. I'm so proud!"

Graham Lewis' work is free to view in the Greta Williams community Room of St Ives Library, according to normal library opening hours. Click on the link for further details of the St Ives' September Art Show.

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