Geoff Levitus | A Foreigner’s Glimpse
Geoff Levitus is a traveller and an activist, and his works are a true testament to that. In his latest exhibition 'A Foreigner’s Glimpse', Levitus's works are a visual diary of his travels overseas and large amounts of time particularly through Vietnam, South Korea, Japan, India, Laos, Cambodia and China.
In the eleven years overseas, Levitus remained true to his intention looking past the tourist icons and postcards, stating “I scratched the surfaces to discover the cultural effects of interconnecting histories. I discovered contemporary life on the streets juxtaposed with the traditional life of temples and pagodas, the beauty of visual representations of these daily contradictions, but also the horror of wars and uprisings largely unknown to the West.”
Deftly moving between oil on canvas, watercolour and gouache on paper, Levitus maintains the same lightness of touch and fragility of form throughout the exhibition. Dripping flowers bleed down the page to wash over sites of conflict and their aftermath. They hang like silent witnesses to the human conflict.
Not geographically limited to one place, the universal experience of conflict grows apparent in examining the series. Sharing his own accounts, the social and political drive behind Levitus is clear as he states, “Asia’s rocky path from colonial histories to 21st century economic prosperity exposes the huge cultural divides and unfamiliarity with democratic ideas that are common in many of these countries. It becomes obvious that we are good at forgetting and burying history, especially that the history of refugees is a universal one repeated through the ages which implicates us all. My work is an effort to confront this reality.”
Levitus’s works build from points of quiet stillness to a height of frenzied action, with violent silhouettes colliding on the picture plane. The emotional scenes combined with carefully selected cultural symbols, whether Chinese characters, flowers, architecture or even a Coca Cola sign, result in a vivid and intense ‘glimpse’ of each country. Carefully labelled, the works are dated, or titled generally such as “It’s everyone’s story” to engage rather than isolate the viewer with the familiar and unspecific scenes of violence. It is only through time spent with the works that the visual hints reveal the work’s country of origin.
Opening Wednesday 13 July, ‘A Foreigner’s Glimpse’ promises to be a quiet yet revealing meditation on contemporary issues of international conflict. And unlike the News or images online you can’t scroll past Levitus works with just one glance.
A Foreigner’s Glimpse
13 July – 6 August
Stanley Street Gallery
Courtesy the artist and Stanley Street Gallery, Sydney.