Hew Locke RA (b. 1959 Edinburgh, UK) is a Guyanese-British artist. He spent his formative years (1966-80) in Guyana before returning to the UK to complete an MA in sculpture at the Royal College of Art (1994). He was elected a member of the Royal Academy of Arts in 2022.
Locke’s practice explores the languages of colonial and post-colonial power, how different cultures fashion their identities through visual symbols of authority, and how these representations are altered by the passage of time. These explorations have led Locke to a wide range of subject matters, images and media, assembling sources across time and space in his deeply layered artworks.
Across his work, Locke’s ability to fuse existing material and historic sources with his own political or cultural concerns, whether via visual juxtapositions or through the re-working of a pre-existing object or photograph, leads to witty and innovative amalgamations of history and modernity. This layering of time is accompanied by a unique merging of influences from the artist’s native Guyana and London, where Locke lives and works, leading to richly textured, visually vibrant pieces that stand on a crossroad of histories, cultures and media.
In Hinterland (2013) Locke recontextualizes a statue of Queen Victoria — he layers new narratives in reaction to the purity of the photographic image. This particular statue stood for years outside the Law Courts in Georgetown, the capital of Guyana. During the 1970s she was unceremoniously dumped on her side, at the back of the Botanical Gardens, where she suffered the damage still visible. The statue was reinstated in the 1990s, following the death of the former President for Life. Her dethroning was a symbolic act following Guyana becoming a socialist republic — but more than this, it was a statement of personal power by the President. It was a shock to Locke when he saw her returned to her original position — following the easing of relations with Britain. A gesture of good will, possibly or cynically, in return for aid.
Here’s the Thing, Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, UK, 2019, toured to Kemper Museum of Contemporary Art, Kansas City, MO, USA and Colby College Museum of Art, Maine, ME, USA Bold, Black, British, Christies London, 2021
Dan Hicks, Hew Locke Challenges Empire in Birmingham, Hyperallergic, 17 June 2022: https://hyperallergic.com/741417/hew-locke-challenges-empire-in-birmingham/ Precious Adesina, The History Man, Elephant, Spring 2022 Emily Dinsdale, This immersive exhibition traces the legacy of Black British creativity, 30 September 2021: https://www.dazeddigital.com/art-photography/article/54347/1/this-immersive-exhibition-traces-the-legacy-of-black-british-creativity Christopher P Jones, Hew Locke: Here's the Thing, Riot Material, 29 March 2021 https://cvonhassett.medium.com/hew-locke-heres-the-thing-ea8f7f8d619c Emily Cox, At the Kemper, Hew Locke interrogates the complex legacies of British imperialism, The Pitch, 21 November 2019: https://www.thepitchkc.com/at-the-kemper-hew-locke-interrogates-the-complex-legacies-of-british-imperialism/ Daniel Trilling, Making up for the past – the artists filling in the blanks in our collective memory, Apollo, 20 July 2019: https://www.apollo-magazine.com/contemporary-artists-reconstruction-rakowitz-attia-locke/ Aurella Yussuf, Ruptured Histories: How Hew Locke is Peeling Back the Layers of Britain’s Colonial Past, Frieze Magazine, 20 May 2019: https://www.frieze.com/article/ruptured-histories-how-hew-locke-peeling-back-layers-britains-colonial-past Hannah Clugston, Hew Locke review – exquisite objects raise the ghosts of colonialism, 8 March 2019: https://www.theguardian.com/artanddesign/2019/mar/08/hew-locke-review-exquisite-objects-raise-the-ghosts-of-colonialism
Richard Drayton, Diana Tuite, Jonathan Watkins, Hew Locke: Here's the Thing, Cornerhouse Publications: Manchester, 2019