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Striding Lion in front of the Ou Hoofgebou

To Lewis, all of the large cat predators embody different qualities. Where the leopard is sinuosity and the cheetah, elegance, to him, the lion is strength and sheer, unadulterated might. This sculpture is noteworthy because Lewis did few lion forms, and also because it was done in a different medium. The vast majority of his cat sculptures were originally done in clay, but this lion was done first in plaster – a medium that allowed the artist to mould, model and carve. As a result, it has a slightly less fluid feel about it than those works done in clay, and has a more iconographic, stylised appearance than his other animal works.  The most striking thing about this piece is the intensity of the lion´s gaze: it seems to breathe veiled menace, embodying the unpredictability and conscienceless, impersonal threat posed by the supreme cat predator.
 
In order to capture and communicate this immediate sense of palpable life, the cornerstone of Lewis´s artistic ethos has always involved long hours of drawing and sketching from life, in front of the living, breathing subject as he observes, smells and senses it in its presence. It is while drawing that the artist makes sense of the form before him, and it is the way that he imprints that form onto his consciousness. For him, the act of drawing is also a meditation or focused observation, and it is something to which he constantly returns while engaged in the process of sculpting, filling books with sketches, notes and drawings. By referring to these in the solitude of his studio, he is able to reproduce physical form while exploring the more abstract, deeper meanings of his subjects. It is this process that is responsible for his remarkable ability to capture the spirit or essence of his subjects.  (Interestingly, Cape Lion freely roamed this area and the Renosterbos around Stellenbosch during the 1700s. Cape Lion were a distinct sub-species of African Lion, and the last was shot at Leeu Gamka only in 1842, rendering them extinct.)
 

Ou Hoofgebou

Translated as “old main building”, this dates back to 1879 and is the
oldest academic building on the campus of the University of Stellenbosch.