Penrith to present extraordinary Margo Lewers exhibition at her former home

Margo Lewers' 'Outside', C 1975.
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A new exhibition in Penrith will celebrate the power and range of Margo Lewers in the first curated survey exhibition of her works in over 20 years.

Lewers worked in a variety of mediums including painting, textiles, sculpture and mosaic, winning her recognition as a leading Postwar Abstract Expressionist.

The exhibition, ‘A House Full Of Paintings’, will open at the Penrith Regional Gallery on March 18 and will run until May 14.

‘A House Full of Paintings’ includes paintings, collages, mosaics, fabric hangings, and plexiglass sculptures, set amidst the beauty of her original homestead and heritage garden. Also included is a never-before-seen collection of Margo’s collages, as well as her hand-made Christmas cards and documentation of her mosaics.

The exhibition reflects on a time in the late 1960s when Margo lived alone in her former home, now the Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest.

Margo working on her major Canberra Rex Hotel mosaic commission, Expansion, completed in 1960.

Her husband, the sculptor Gerald Lewers had since passed, and her daughters Darani and Tanya were pursuing their own careers in Sydney.

As Margo prepared for the first solo exhibition of her work to be held at home in the recently converted Ancher House Gallery, she set the scene, proclaiming in an interview for an article entitled ‘A House Full of Paintings’, “it’s a house without people, its only inhabitants are paintings”.

Paintings were hung in the kitchen and prints covered the walls in the bathroom. The experience of painting was expanded beyond the frame into the artist’s entire domestic environment, in the form of floor mosaics, interior design, architecture, and Margo’s beloved garden that she designed and maintained well into her later years.

It was a curiosity as much as a celebration, as guests wandered through the exhibition spaces, and in and out of buildings and rooms that had housed her family and friends for decades.

Half a century later, Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest pays homage as much as to a phenomenal artist as to the power of place, as a site of creative endeavour, experimentation, friendship, and family.

Margo Lewers, Composition in Orange C 1952.

“As the custodians of the largest collection of Lewers’ work – and indeed to her home and gardens – we are thrilled by the opportunity to highlight the artistic experimentation and triumphs that characterised Margo’s life,” said Toby Chapman, Director, Visual Arts, Penrith Performing & Visual Arts.

“‘A House Full of Paintings’ draws into focus the sheer ambition and breadth of Lewers’ practice, and we hope it will provide our audience with an opportunity to reflect on her anachronistic life, lived here in the suburbs of Emu Plains.”

Nina Stromqvist, Curatorial Programs Manager, Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest said: “Margo Lewers helped define and enrich the Australian Modernist tradition with her unrestrained creativity and force, the impacts of which still reverberate today. It’s been an absolute delight to work with the original Bequest and pay homage to the art and life of a phenomenal artist.”

Lewers strongly desired her Emu Plains property to be left as an artistic hub, and prior to her death, began the process of bequeathing her home and collection of artworks to the local community. Through the generosity and persistence of her daughters Darani Lewers and Tanya Crothers, and with vocal community support, Margo’s wishes were fulfilled. The property and collection of artworks were gifted to Penrith City Council and in 1981, the Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest was opened.

Lewers was included in the ‘Know My Name: Australian Women Artists 1900 to Now’ exhibition at The National Gallery of Australia in 2021-22.

‘A House Full of Paintings’ will be officially opened on March 18 by Alison McLaren, Chair of Penrith Performing and Visual Arts, with opening remarks by Denise Mimmocchi, Senior Curator of Australian Art, Art Gallery of NSW and Toby Chapman, Director, Visual Arts, Penrith Performing & Visual Arts.

The recently published book Margo Lewers: No Limits will be available to purchase at the opening event. It brings new insights to the creativity and range of Margo’s career with first-hand accounts of personal experiences and independent, original research by the contributing authors, which include her two daughters.

‘A House Full of Paintings’ exhibition is opening at Penrith Regional Gallery, Home of The Lewers Bequest on Saturday, March 18 from 1pm – 3pm. The exhibition runs until May 14.

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