Renowned British artist Tim Lewis stands at the intersection of creativity and contemplation. His piece invites audiences to embark on a philosophical and yet physical expedition, since his captivating kinetic sculptures only work if audiences wind them up. While showcasing his artistic prowess, his pieces become more than a mere display of the dynamic power of sculptures.
They delve into the intricate dynamics between human intervention and the natural world, which can be negative while appearing not to be. In particular, Lewis's works related to animals and nature offer a profound reflection on the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal of Life on Land and Life Below Water.
One of Lewis's notable creations that encapsulates this is a series of kinetic sculptures he recently showed in Flowers Gallery, London, as part of an exhibition titled The Forest Visits. The series features a menagerie of animals that move in a harmonious dance, compelling viewers to reflect on the interconnectedness of all living beings.
The exhibit's titular piece, The Forest Visits, is a kinetic piece of an echidna whose body has been replaced with tree bark. If wound by a viewer, the echidna will begin to play a triangle it is holding in its tree paws as if drawing attention to itself and the forest it is in. A 2023 report by the San Diego Zoo Wildlife Alliance Library notes that since the 1960s, the population of long-beaked echidnas, as depicted in The Forest Visits, has seen an at least 80 per cent decline due to overhunting and habitat loss. Making the triangle-playing echidna-tree fusion a real call to action, reminding humankind to protect, restore, and promote the sustainable use of terrestrial ecosystems as they are home to many wonderful creatures that cannot live elsewhere.
In another compelling piece, titled Die Hacke, Lewis explores the notion of habitat disruption through a suspended lemur. Depicting it in mid-air, caught in a moment of suspended animation while its body is skeletal, this piece evokes a sense of vulnerability. The juxtaposition of the animal against the emptiness of space prompts contemplation on the impact of human intervention on natural habitats.
For the past 60 years, Madagascar has lost 44 per cent of its forests, causing the Madagascar lemur to be the world’s most endangered mammals. Hence, Lewis’ piece emphasizes the importance of preserving terrestrial ecosystems and preventing biodiversity loss, especially for lemurs.
Lewis's innovative use of materials also contributes to the thematic richness of his work. He incorporates recycled and repurposed elements into his sculptures to address the interconnected goals of environmental sustainability and responsible consumption. This use of repurposed material is particularly striking in his piece Sea Floor, where audiences can crank a lever to make a fish swim through a trash-littered ocean landscape. The piece is integral to broader discussions around marine debris, emphasizing the need to minimize the ecological footprint and promote practices that preserve the health of oceanic ecosystems.
In his piece Serpent, Tim Lewis explores animal locomotion further with an intricate snake sculpture that slithers when viewers crank its lever. This piece underscores the delicate dance between humanity and the natural world, serving as a metaphor for the interconnectedness of all life forms as the cranking movement created by his audiences directly translates into the snake’s slithering movement.
There is a delicate human-animal balance embodied in Serpent and also in other Lewis sculptures. This also comes with a call to action to prevent and reverse land degradation, showcasing Lewis's commitment to fostering a world where the coexistence of human and non-human life is harmonious and sustainable.
The overarching theme of Lewis's exhibition challenges conventional perspectives on humanity's place in the natural order. By prompting introspection on the delicate interplay between human intervention and the environment, he contributes to a broader dialogue on sustainable practices. His kinetic sculptures, suspended animations, and explorations of animal locomotion become catalysts for conversations about biodiversity, habitat preservation, and the collective responsibility to safeguard life on land and underwater.