Many people are familiar with Anne Lewis the news reporter for CTV News, but they might not know that reporting isn’t the only thing she does with the news. Her latest body of art, titled Newscuts, is part of a three-person exhibition at Galerie Sandra Goldie.
Lewis started to work on Newscuts six months ago, after covering a story about a young man named Morgan Hill who was diagnosed with cancer at the age of 20 and died two years later. His family told her that the surgeon had removed 200 tumours from their son’s body. Morgan’s story haunted her. Lewis talks about the emotionally charged information that reaches us daily and wonders about the appropriate response.
“Electronic communications technologies are wonderful,” she said. “We can know what’s going on anywhere in the world at any given time, but how do we pay proper respect to the content of what they are telling us, without getting blasé, without turning off and without getting wounded by taking in too much?”
The Morgan Hill story was a catalyst. Lewis decided she had to react in a creative way to the news she had encountered. Like the surgeon removing the cancerous tumours, she would take her scalpel and cut out everything she found disturbing in the newspaper: It’s surprising how little news and paper remains.
In each of the seven pieces in the exhibition, Lewis has removed all the bad news from the front page of newspapers on days that the news was particularly shocking. What is left of reportage of the London terrorist bombings or the Asian Tsunami after she intervenes is only a few words and a date. Lewis likes the fact that you can approach the works and read a few words, but if you don’t remember what happened on that date you would not know what had been removed.
Gallery director Goldie said: “There is this desire for people to put it back together. It is like an ancient sculpture, it becomes more interesting because of what is not there.”
Lewis is not one to tune out the news she receives through her reporting: she has passed on information to the public about new medications and medical breakthroughs, been instrumental in helping handicapped children be adopted and started the first Montreal children’s help line in the 1980’s following a story she did on child abuse.
Before starting to work for the media, Lewis studied art at the Slade School of Art in London and the Sorbonne in Paris and was a practicing artist here in Montreal. “This new work is the first time I have been able to unite both the medical reporter and artistic/visually creative sides of my person.”
Lewis makes the cuttings become something other than bad news. She soaks them in painting medium, tints them with vegetable dyes and spatters them with dirt. In the end, the graphic shapes she creates come to resemble an aerial view of some geological ruin or streets on a map.
Yet perhaps what is most interesting about this work is neither the initial headlines nor the fragmented remains, but the conceptual transformation that happens in between. Lewis’ treatment of paper is really a metaphor for her desire to cleanse our psyches of this horrific content. “I witness it,” she explained, “am part of it, edit it in my own way and give it another life.”