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Uncanny Valley

Photograph of a toy rabbits surrounding a chair with crutches replacing it's two front legs

26 May 2004 - 22 August 2004

The term 'uncanny valley' was first used by Japanese roboticist Masahiro Mori to describe the point at which a machine becomes almost too human and lifelike for comfort. Contemporary artist Tim Lewis examines this notion in his work, creating automated sculptures that explore the relationship between mankind and our sometimes disquieting manufactured world.

Lewis's sculptures include a variety of machines that react to the people and environment around them. Large scale 'stroboscopic' artworks spin and explode with movement and colour. Familiar items such as chairs walk with crutches and mechanical rabbits, once cuddly, take on a more sinister quality. These works defy easy categorization but are inspired by the traditions of kinetic art, the development of photography and genetics. The artist's preliminary drawings and maquettes will also be on display, to provide an insight into Lewis's distinctive creative process.

For twenty years, Tim has endowed objects with properties they don't naturally possess, especially the ability to walk. Some, like the Bentwood chair, are "ready-mades" that undergo fundamental changes in his hands. Others, including the blue chair in Pet and the writing arms, are built from scratch. Some pieces are abstract, like the spinning forms, but references to nature, whether feathers or the galaxy, persist.

Tim's interest in this unusual subject matter was sparked at an early age:

"At 17 I bought a book with a beautifully flashy robot on the cover. I still have it at home with my absurd notes in it. I immediately knew that's what I wanted to do. I hadn't thought of being an artist but I went to art college because that was the place where they would let me do this."

Amongst the new work being shown for the first time at this exhibition is Pet, in which a garden chair, walking with the aid of crutches, is startled by rabbits and attempts to move away from them.