In 2010 he was shortlisted for the Fourth plinth, Trafalgar Square, London. In 2015 Prince William, Duke of Cambridge dedicated his public sculpture, The Jurors, commissioned to commemorate 800 years since the signing of Magna Carta.
He has had several solo exhibitions in the UK and USA, and is regularly included in international exhibitions and Biennales. His works have been acquired by collections such as The Tate gallery, London and The Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York. In 2016 The National Portrait Gallery, London acquired a portrait of Locke by Nicholas Sinclair.
Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, in 1959, Locke is the eldest son of Guyanese sculptor Donald Locke (1930–2010) and British painter Leila Locke (née Chaplin) (1936-1992). He spent his formative years (1966 to 1980) in Georgetown, Guyana, before returning to the UK to study. He received a B.A. Fine Art in 1988 from Falmouth University, and an M.A. Sculpture from the Royal College of Art, London in 1994. In 1995 he married curator Indra Khanna.
Work and themes
Prof. Dr. Ingrid von Rosenberg has written: "(Black) Artists who continue to produce work with a critical message, like Yinka Shonibare and Hew Locke, avoid the open confrontation typical of the 1980s and instead use humour and satire, positioning themselves as cultural insiders, rather than excluded outsiders."
He has cited architecture ranging from the Baroque, Rajput, Islamic, and Caribbean vernacular to Victorian Funfairs as influences. Locke uses a wide range of media, makes extensive use of found objects, and his recurrent themes include cardboard, royalty, public statues, boats, finance and trade.
Locke said about misreadings of his work in his early career: "I would make a sculpture and people would think it was made for some festival...It was seen as being from a folk tradition, not as being of its own tradition, true to itself - as art basically...I stopped making work in colour for three years, I just dropped it."
Curator Kris Kuramitsu wrote : "Frustrated by the fact that his biography so heavily over-determines the reading of his work, he created a series of sculptures in which he used cardboard to preemptively package the work for the viewer. This move was revelatory for Locke's practice, as through this material he could metonymically address migration, international economics, globalisation and ideas about personal and cultural protection and projection."
His ongoing series House of Windsor consists of portraits of members of the British royal family.
He has said: "People ask me why I'm working on pictures of the royal family...They expect me to be angry, but I don't see the point. If you're going to fight in Iraq, then you're going to fight for Queen and Country. When you hand in your passport, you see that you are in fact a subject of the Queen. My work is a weird kind of acceptance of that situation."
"My feelings about the Royal Family are ambivalent. I am simply fascinated by the institution and its relationship to the press and public. My political position is neither republican nor monarchist."
In an interview with Simon Grant, Locke said "the legacy of empire is all around us on a daily basis - not just the variety of ethnic backgrounds that we have living in the UK, but the buildings and public statues that you see in cities across the country that came into being out of the economy of empire."
Locke often works over photographs of specific statues, covering areas with painted or collaged designs. The press release for his work Restoration describes "Hew Locke’s embellishment, directly on to the photographic print, interrupts our expectation that the surface of the photographic image should be left pristine. We can only guess at what lies beneath ...It is perhaps the image of Colston that is most haunting. He is adorned with cowrie shells and other trade beads ... we are made aware of his ... involvement in the uncomfortable truths of corrupt African Kingdoms selling their people ... Locke views this work as an act of ‘mindful vandalism’, an exploration of these characters who he finds both attractive and repellent."
Locke said "When travelling around Britain, the first things I’m looking for are the statues ... I often think ‘why have they got a statue to this person and why to that person?’ ... On a purely aesthetic level I often find these historical monuments beautiful and have a genuine respect for their skilled academic sculptors. I have a somewhat schizophrenic response. It is not an anti-military critique, but an investigation into the idea of the Hero, and a meditation on our relationship with monumental public sculpture.".
Ships have been a constant theme in his work throughout his career, ranging from small paintings to installations filling a church nave or an installation across an entire battle ship.
He has said "I have a deep personal compulsion to make at least one boat every two years or so. It is part of my personal history, having sailed to and from Guyana to England as a child."
Curator Zoe Lukov has written "Locke offers us a maritime procession - at once celebratory and funereal - that is animated by the sub-marine pulse of history...a synthesis of symbols from intertwined historical and cultural legends and narratives...disparate legacies that surf the waves.."
Finance and trade
Curator Amanda Sanfilippo of Fringe Projects, Miami, wrote that Locke "utilizes share certificates ... to embody the history and global movement of money, power and ownership. Since the financial crash of 2008, Hew Locke has been acquiring original antique share certificates and applying paint to their surfaces. Locke ... often highlights historical and economic cycles, the machinations of global currency and exchange... Figures representative of the local population in the areas in which the companies operated are sometimes seen breaking-through. These are silent witnesses, those who paid the most to create the wealth without receiving the benefit...This work... is also a wry acknowledgement of the commodity value of contemporary art."
Art Daily reported that his 2017 work Cui Bono "refers to the wealth that maritime trade brought to Bremen’s merchants. The search for wealth, violent conquest and a desire for safety are factors that for centuries have driven the global movement of people...(it) is a post-colonial incentive to grapple with Bremen’s maritime commercial and colonial history."
- Diana Cooper Hew Locke, London: The Drawing Room, 2004, ISBN 0-9542668-2-X
- Hew Locke, Walsall: The New Art Gallery Walsall, 2005, ISBN 0-946652-77-5
- How Do You Want Me?, Paris: Editions Janninck, 2009, ISBN 978-2-916067-41-4
- Stranger in Paradise, London: Black Dog, 2011, ISBN 978-1-907317-38-5
- Jonathan Jones, "Five Card Trick", The Guardian Weekend, 30 September 2000.
- "Fourth Plinth contenders", Anita Singh, The Daily Telegraph, 19 August 2010, retrieved 2018.
- "Magna Carta: Prince William unveils Hew Locke's new artwork The Jurors at Runnymede", Eleanor Davis, Get Surrey, 16 June 2015, retrieved 2018.
- Hew Locke website/CV, retrieved 2018.
- "The Tate collection online", retrieved 2018.
- "The Metropolitan Museum of Art collection online", retrieved 2018.
- "The National Portrait Gallery online", retrieved 2018
- "Sculptor Donald Locke passes away", Stabroek News, 7 December 2011, retrieved 2011.
- Claudette Earl, Leila Elizabeth Locke - an appreciation, Chronicle Family Magazine, April 19, 1992.
- Duff, L., & P. Sawdon, Drawing - the Purpose, Intellect Ltd, 2008.
- Locke's website, retrieved 2011.
- Ingrid von Rosenberg, "Transformations of Western Icons in Black British Art", Journal for the Study of British Culture, Vol. 15/1, 2008.
- Review of "Cardboard Palace", Ellie Duffy, Building Design magazine, issue 1529, 29 February 2002.
- Review of "Cardboard Palace", Jonathan Jones, Contemporary magazine, June 2002, p. 160.
- Locke's website, retrieved 2018
- Hew Locke in conversation with Richard West, Source magazine, issue 55, p. 9, summer 2008.
- Hew Locke, The New Art Gallery Walsall, 2005.
- "Glitterbug", The Guardian Weekend, p. 58, January 31, 2004.
- "Legacies of Empire", Simon Grant, Tate Etc magazine, issue 35, p. 74, Autumn 2015.
- Hew Locke website/statues, retrieved 2018.
- Bristol art's organisation Spike Island's press release for commissioning of Restoration as part of British Art Show 6, September 2006.
- Hew Locke website/sikandar, retrieved 2018.
- Hew Locke website/boats, retrieved 2016.
- "Second Lives: Remixing the Ordinary'", Museum of Arts & Design, ISBN 1-890385-14-X.
- "Hew Locke - The Wine Dark Sea", catalogue published by Edward Tyler Nahem Fine Art, 2016.
- Fringe Projects Miami website , retrieved 2018.
- "Intervention by artist Hew Locke on view in the Bremen Town Hall", Art Daily, , retrieved 2018.
- Official website
- Artist Interview: Hew Locke on YouTube
- on YouTube, University of Miami
- Tate: Meet the Artist: Hew Locke. The artist talks about his piece The Nameless
- BP Artists Talk: Hew Locke, in conversation with Marcus Verhagen at Tate Britain site
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