Good Weekend Art Column

Richard Lewer – Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney

Published March 2, 2019
Seven days to Kokoda 2018 acrylic on canvas 153 x 570.5 cm

Artist: Richard Lewer

Lives: Northcote, Melbourne

Age: 48

Represented by: Sullivan + Strumpf, Sydney (Hugo Mtchell Gallery, Adelaide; Suite Gallery, Wellington)

Her thing. A suite of paintings and drawings made after walking the Kokoda Track in Papua New Guinea.

Our take. Richard Lewer is a New Zealand-born artist with an understanding of history and a sense of compassion. In paintings, drawings, installations, animated films and dioramas Lewer has looked at small-scale instances of crime and social injustice, and the experiences of soldiers during the First and Second World Wars. In The Adventure of a Lifetime at Sullivan + Stumpf, Lewer is showing works based on his recent experience of walking the Kokoda Track.

The show consists of two seven-metre paintings, seven portraits of the local guides who assisted in the seven day trek, and 31 drawings. Lewer depicts the present-day landscape and delves back into the history of the Track – a rugged 96-kilometre pathway that runs through the Owen Stanley Range. It was the scene of fierce fighting between Allied and Japanese forces between July and November 1942, and is viewed today as one of the sacred sites of Australian military history.

The title of the show refers to the propaganda used to encourage young men to sign up for the fighting in New Guinea. It was an ‘adventure’ that would prove fatal for many, and traumatic for everyone who took part. Even today it’s no easy matter to walk the Track from end to end. In his deadpan, understated style, Lewer restages famous images from the conflict, matching them with records of his own journey, allowing the past to insinuate itself into the present.

Can I afford it?

The most expensive works in the show are two large, multi-panelled acrylic paintings (570.5cm by 153 cm), selling for $88,000 each. This is still well beneath the artist’s record price of $115,000. The seven acrylic portraits of the guides (each 97.5cm by 97.5cm) are priced at $12,100, while the 31 drawings, (each 30cm by 20cm) are $2,200 each.

Where can I have a squiz?

Sullivan + Strumpf, 799 Elizabeth Street, Zetland, Sydney, 23 February – 16 March, 2019,


Published in Good Weekend, the Sydney Morning Herald, 9 March 2019