Lionel Bawden

Australia 1974


Lionel Bawden
Lionel Bawden
March 12, 2016
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It is rare for an artist to work with colored pencils. To ordinary people, they are an association to the children happily drawing on their coloring books. However, that is not the case for the Lionel Bawden, a young Australian artist who decided to work primarily with pencils. Said like this, you might expect to see some drawings, but the main field of the artist’s work is actually the sculpture. The material provides an excellent base for Bawden’s endless inspiration, so some incredible sculptures have been made. At first glance, without engaging deeply, his work seems different, like ‘normal’ sculptures made possibly out of clay, but when observed closely, a new world opens, and it’s made out of something unexpected.

The sculptures are made entirely out of colored pencils

Lionel Bawden - Double Vision, 2011 - Secretion III, 2011
Lionel Bawden – Double Vision, 2011 / Secretion III, 2011

Colors and Geometry

Pencils were chosen because of their qualities of color and geometry, and the artist only works with hexagonal ones within a honeycomb pattern. What truly fascinates is the fact that the artist is creating using material which has other purposes, like writing or drawing. The number of pencils required for each piece goes in the thousands, and that is another amazing fact, which emphasizes Lionel’s patience and ability to modify all of them. The form is constructed as he goes, with cutting the pencils into suitable dimensions, and then gluing them into complex forms. He uses a small rotary sander to carve the material, which is then finished with fine sandpaper by hand. The sketches are made, but they are very basic. The artist imagines the sculpture and then works through the process of trials and errors. David Altmejd and Louise Bourgeois are other sculptures who influenced the artist.

The artist works through the process of trials and errors

Lionel Bawden - Pattern Spill II, 2011 - Pattern Spill III, 2011
Lionel Bawden – Pattern Spill II, 2011 / Pattern Spill III, 2011

Exhibitions and Puns

Even when it comes to exhibiting his work, Bawden remains original. He named his solo show “New works on paper”, giving the viewers the impression they will be watching a collection of drawings, maybe some paintings on paper. Instead, they were greeted by the thousands of pencils combined into magnificent sculptures. The pun was completed with the artist placing his sculptures onto the stacks of Nordset paper which were masqueraded as pedestals. In another exhibition, he changed his usual approach and denied color from his sculptures, making them unusually and very uncharacteristically white. In fact, the accent was on the energy of the form itself.

The accent is sometimes on the energy of the form itself

Lionel Bawden - Requiem (Spirit of the Beehive), 2012 - A Surrender to the Endless, 2015
Lionel Bawden – Requiem (Spirit of the Beehive), 2012 / A Surrender to the Endless, 2015

A Self-taught Sculptor

Lionel was born in Sydney and has earned a Bachelor of Visual Arts with Honors in the painting department at The Australian National University, Canberra School of Art in 1997. In 1995, the artist spent half a year in China, honing his skills at The China National Academy of Fine Art in Hangzhou. He became interested in sculpture only after the graduation, so he’s basically a self-taught sculptor. That didn’t stop him from winning the 2009 Wynne Prize or the 2004 ABN Amro emerging Artist Award in Sydney. He was also a recipient of several residencies, including the Art Omi International Artist Residency in New York in 2009 and Creative New Zealand residency at Dunedin Public Art Gallery, New Zealand in 2003.

Lionel Bawden - Secretion, 2011
Lionel Bawden – Secretion, 2011

Take a Closer Look

Expect the unexpected could be the motto of Bawden’s work. The viewers are invited to explore and admire the structure, form and precise choice of colors. His medium is making the artworks unique and unlike anything else. They simply require a closer look so the observers could realize what they are made of, and when that happens, a beautiful new world of shapes and colors is opened.

He is represented by The Cat Street Gallery in Hong Kong.

Lionel Bawden is based in New South Wales, Australia.

All images copyright © Lionel Bawden.

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016Lionel BawdenKaren Woodbury Gallery, MelbourneSolo
2016Fantastic Worlds: A Rockhampton Art Gallery ExhibitionRockhampton Art GalleryGroup
2015monster pop!: the monstrous side of Indonesian and Australian contemporary artMuseum and Art Gallery of Northern Territory, DarwinGroup
2015Spring 1883Establishment Hotel, Karen Woodbury Gallery, SydneyGroup
2014Form and SubstanceJan Murphy Gallery, BrisbaneGroup
2014Benglis 73-74TCB Art inc, MelbourneGroup
2014Domestic BlissDeakin University Art Gallery, MelbourneGroup
2014burster flipper wobbler dripper spinner stacker shaker makerChristchurch Gallery, New ZealandGroup
2014New ContemporariesSydney College of the Arts, SydneyGroup
2014Nature NurtureKaren Woodbury Gallery, MelbourneGroup
2013WonderworksThe Cat Street Gallery, Hong Kong, ChinaGroup
2013Wood-Art, Design, ArchitectureThe Jam Factory, Adelaide, travelling nationallyGroup
2012Word of mouth: Encounters with abstract artCanberra Museum & Gallery, CanberraGroup
2012Signal 8-StormThe Cat Street Gallery, Hong Kong, ChinaGroup
2012Zhongjian MidwayHamilton Art Gallery, HamiltonGroup
2011Pattern spillKaren Woodbury Gallery, MelbourneSolo
2011The world of the surfaceFrey Norris, San FranciscoSolo
2011Out of the Comfort ZoneCustoms House, SydneyGroup
2011Basic InstinctKaren Woodbury Gallery, MelbourneGroup
2011Pangea: Art at the Forefront of Cultural ConvergenceFrey Norris Contemporary & Modern, San Francisco, U.S.AGroup
2010A Void - La DisparitionGRANTPIRRIE, SydneySolo
2010Redlands Westpac Art PrizeMosman Art Gallery, NSWGroup
2010Lies-Lions-LineThe Paper Mill, Sydney, NSWGroup
2010Your Move- Australian Artists Play ChessBendigo Gallery, VICGroup
2010Curious Colony- A twenty first century WunderkammerNewcastle Region Art Gallery, NSWGroup
2010SOME THING IN THE AIR- collage and assemblage in Canberra region artCanberra Museum and Gallery, A.C.T.Group
2010The NavigatorsKaren Woodbury Gallery, MelbourneGroup
2009NonsenseNeon Parc, MelbourneSolo
2009Zhongjian: MidwayWollongong City Gallery project touring to China, Yuan Centre of Art, Beijing and Art Gallery of Tianjin Academy of Fine Arts, TianjinGroup
20093D x 5: Contemporary Australian SculptureBathurst Regional Gallery, Bathurst, New South WalesGroup
2009Walk the Line: New Australian DrawingMuseum of Contemporary Art, SydneyGroup
2009The Wynne Prize exhibitionArt Gallery of New South Wales, SydneyGroup
2008New works on paperGRANTPIRRIE, SydneySolo
2008Beijing international Art Biennalevarious venues, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2008There goes a narwhal with Nell and Michael ZavrosQueensland University Art MuseumGroup
2007PortalGRANTPIRRIE, SydneyGroup
2006Dark MatterGRANTPIRRIE, SydneySolo
2006My Body RemembersGRANTPIRRIE, Melbourne Art Fair, MelbourneSolo
2006Strange CargoNewcastle Region Art Gallery, Newcastle, New South WalesGroup
2006The Roving EyeGigantic Artspace, New York, USAGroup
2006Shelf lifeM.O.P. Projects, SydneyGroup
2006Random AccessMcClelland Gallery + Sculpture Park, VictoriaGroup
2005Demolish? Demolish. Demolish!Cuo Jia Cun artist village, Beijing, ChinaGroup
2005Un-AustralianAnna Bibby Gallery, Auckland, New ZealandGroup
2004The MonstersGRANTPIRRIE, SydneySolo
2004The Year in ArtS.H. Ervin Gallery, SydneyGroup
2004ADRIFT (refugee fundraiser)Queensland Centre for PhotographyGroup
2004Savvy- New Australian ArtQueensland University of Technology Art Museum, BrisbaneGroup
2004True LoveDunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin. New ZealandGroup
2003the spring tuneDunedin Public Art Gallery, Dunedin, New ZealandSolo
2003new organismsNewcastle Region Art Gallery, Newcastle, New South WalesSolo
2003Acquisitions 2001–2002Newcastle Region Art Gallery, Newcastle, New South WalesGroup
2003ColourQueensland Art Gallery, BrisbaneGroup
2003Artbox Inc.Sherman Galleries, SydneyGroup
2003the spring tuneDunedin Public Art Gallery, New ZealandGroup
2003Hung, Drawn and QuarteredTinsheds Gallery, SydneyGroup
2002esque – thoughts brought forth by our fingersGRANTPIRRIE, SydneySolo
2001The National Sculpture PrizeNational Gallery of Australia, CanberraGroup
2001Inaugural exhibitionThe National Museum of Erotica, CanberraGroup
2000Possession – a self-storage unitCasula Powerhouse – The Lounge, SydneySolo
1998LEDCanberra Contemporary Art Space, Manuka, CanberraSolo
1998DriftCaravan, AdelaideSolo
1998Hatched-National Graduate ShowPerth Institute of Contemporary Art, PerthGroup
1996Anonymous Paper Men Poster Projectstreets of Sydney and CanberraSolo