Interview: Hew Locke, ‘Here’s the Thing’

Each month, we digest some of the UK’s most brilliant exhibitions. This January, we talk to the artist Hew Locke about his upcoming exhibition, ‘Hew Locke: Here’s the Thing’, opening at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 8 March – 2 June 2019.

Interview: Hew Locke, ‘Here’s the Thing’

Hew Locke: Here’s the Thing opens at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 8 March – 2 June 2019.

An artist celebrated for layered, multi-media works that explore the language of colonial and post-colonial powers, this exciting Ikon exhibition gives Locke free reign to showcase the breadth of his art alongside highly anticipated new pieces. “My aim is to show off the wide range of my practice, with media from small watercolours up to large installations. The title comes from a phrase I use a lot in conversation – meaning – ‘allow me to explain’, and of course, the show is about My Thing…”

This promises to be a thought-provoking exhibition filled with colour, busts, boats and nuance, after all, “The venue is an important venue, so you’ve got to come good.”

What new works will we see in Hew Locke: Here’s the Thing?

“The obvious thing to do was a new boat installation, so the exhibition will have 40 boats suspended from the ceiling at eye height. That way you can see all the incredible detail involved and all the histories each of them carries. I always hope the audience will at first be attracted to a piece visually, and then realise that there are complex histories woven into the work, there for them to unpick.

“There will be a new series of painted photographs, this time on old, flooded Guyanese houses left behind in a strange limbo by economics, and then I have also been collecting antique busts of Queen Victoria and her family, that I have named Souvenirs. These are only small, but they would have been common in middle-class Victorian homes.”

What can you tell us about your first film, The Tourists?

“The Tourists is a poetic response to HMS Belfast’s final voyage in 1962, when it made a stop in Trinidad, the Caribbean. It’s a film I made that creatively documents an installation, also called The Tourists, I did in 2015 on the Imperial War Museum’s battle ship HMS Belfast. I realised I could twist the narrative of life onboard the boat by putting masks on mannequins portraying the captain, cook and dentist, etc. I like to imagine them there during Carnival, staving off a sailor’s heightened awareness of death by embracing the fun of their surroundings and forming their own Carnival band called ‘The Tourists’. I also envisaged slight Madame Butterfly vibes, where a sailor has a girl in each port.

“At Ikon, the film will be presented set aside in a separate room, and the audience will sit behind masked mannequins from the film, so that you live their experiences with them.”

Browse stills from The Tourists here.

How did this exhibition come to be?

“I had a conversation with Ikon Director Jonathan Watkins over a cup of tea discussing possible exhibition ideas, and it just grew organically from there. I was given great freedom by the gallery to do what I wanted, and to decide what should go in the show.”

Mount Sinai 2014 Hew Locke

Discover more

Browse hundreds of Hew Locke images here.

Our unique position not only offers you inside perspectives on these must-see shows, but also the ability to browse, and license, the artist’s images. Find out more below.

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Need help? Contact our team for expert guidance on finding the right image for your project. Email or call +44 (0) 20 7780 7550. 

With thanks

With thanks to Hew Locke, Indra Khanna, Jonathan Watkins and Ikon Gallery for your help and cooperation on this article.

Hew Locke: Here’s the Thing opens at Ikon Gallery, Birmingham, 8 March – 2 June 2019.
Learn more about the exhibition.

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Desire 2018 Hew Locke

 Company Of The Imperial Railway Of Ethiopia 2012 Hew Locke

The Tourists 2015 Hew Locke (2)

Souvenir 1 Queen Victoria 2018 Hew Locke

Images: The Tourists, Detail 235, 2015 © Hew Locke. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2019; Mount Sinai, 2014 © Hew Locke. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2019. Photo: Charles Littlewood; Desire, 2018, Detail © Hew Locke. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2019; Company of the Imperial Railway of Ethiopia, Share series, 2012 © Hew Locke. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2019; The Tourists, Detail 2352015 © Hew Locke. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2019; Souvenir 1 (Queen Victoria), 2018 © Hew Locke. All rights reserved, DACS/Artimage 2019.