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In tribute to BA Fine Art tutor Lynn Hewett

A black and white portrait photograph of Lynn Hewett
  • Written byCat Cooper
  • Published date 07 June 2023
A black and white portrait photograph of Lynn Hewett
Lynn Hewett self-portrait, scanned by his friend Jananne Al-Ani

With sadness we remember our friend and colleague Lynn Hewett, BA Fine Art tutor at Central Saint Martins, who passed away peacefully in his sleep in the early hours of 30 March.

As an artist, Lynn pursued a practice that tested the limits of photography and interrogated the changing language and technology of the medium. He was also interested in the representation of gay desire. Increasingly, Lynn developed his interest in teaching and learning theory and practice, sharing these discourses with students on the BA Fine Art.

Lynn was a fond friend and advocate to many in the Art programme and the wider Central Saint Martins community.

Here they share some of their tributes to Lynn.

“Lynn’s kindness and grace made CSM a better place. We all loved him and will miss him enormously.”

Alex Schady, Programme Director, BA Fine Art, Central Saint Martins

“In a crit Lynn would always see the thing that nobody else was looking at: the off-centre detail, the queer juxtaposition, or the relationship of the work to the metal ducting on the ceiling. He was doing this in those astonishing last weeks in hospital, taking photos of the vents and slats. He had that knack for finding something just out of immediate sight, whether in the countless portfolios he sifted through or his own art practice, in which the visible barely emerged out of shadow and suggestion. He was a connoisseur of the little everyday beauties he noticed around him, but suspicious of conventional aesthetics. In this respect he was an exacting critic - perhaps excessively so when it came to his own work - and this crossed over into his teaching. He communicated his commitment to his students and demanded theirs in his own inimitable way, a way that wasn’t afraid to draw on his personal experiences, and was often disarmingly passionate and emotional. But his pedagogy - stories, anecdotes and all - was founded on empathy and support, to allay anxieties, bolster confidence, build resilience. All the tools for queer survival that he honed from his early years setting up the Gay Soc as a student himself at The Royal College and carried throughout his career. He knew it was important to make difference visible, but tussled with visuality. His seeing was complex, appreciative and sceptical – I’ll miss looking at the world with him."

Jon Cairns, Critical Studies Leader, BA Fine Art, Central Saint Martins

“Lynn could be alarmingly honest - he didn't do 'front'. His candour was generous and an invitation to others to be themselves. He was often funny as well as forthright in sharing recollections and dilemmas with students when they first arrived on the art course. This signalling of solidarity, respect and compassion was very Lynn. He always said how much he admired the courage of young artists as they were setting out. Maybe this came from memories of his own experiences and struggles as a gay man coming of age in the 1970's and 80's. He was of that amazingly gutsy and pioneering generation of queer men whose spirit and activism led the way for others. His stories were fantastic.....he' d say with a raised eyebrow that I wasn't the first person to say he looked like Rudolf Nureyev.

Although customarily self-deprecating about his photographic work, it was a revelation - delicate, complicated and beautiful.

Getting to know Lynn better in the last few years was an absolute pleasure. I miss him but his thoughtfulness, humour and intense appreciation of life at the end will stay with me.” 

Margot Bannerman, Senior Lecturer, BA Fine Art XD studio, Academic Support tutor, BA Fine Art

“Hi Lynn,

I don't know if you remember me, but I will always remember you. You truly changed the course of my life.

The first time we met I was on day release from a prison in Suffolk.

I boarded the train to Liverpool Street from Ipswich to have my CSM interview with you and Stephen Carter.

I was very nervous, I stunk of jail and I had no confidence. At that point in my life I was convinced that art wasn't for me, that I wasn't even allowed to do it.. i had resigned myself to a life of crime from the age of 13.

I remember you and Stephen coming out into the old reception space at Byam Shaw (Archway/Elthrone being the scene of one of the crimes I was away for!) and calling my name before anyone else as I had to get back to the prison. I felt like everyone gasped, 'Why's he going first?!'

My portfolio was made exclusively in jail, under immense pressure and with extremely limited resources.. pound shop paint on found bits of cardboard and whatever else I could find.

You offered me a place on the spot.

I have carried the same ethos of making ever since. Never forgetting where I came from, but not allowing it to dictate where I am going.

The trajectory of my life changed dramatically that day. Thanks to you taking a chance on a con (messed up teenager).

I now have a BA and MA from CSM and have been teaching there this year too, among many other achievements that wouldn't have been possible had you not been open and receptive towards me.

I guess you must of seen something in me I didn't know I possessed, and for that I am eternally grateful for.

Your legacy lives on in my work and my ways.

Thank You (and Stephen) so much !

You saved me from the life of crime that felt so predetermined I couldn't of found a way out.

Take Care and Much Love where ever you may be x”

John Costi, artist and BA Fine Art graduate

a few lines for Lynn

By Paul O’Kane

“A line around the collar of your perennial Polo shirt; a classic style befitting your boyish build and child-like charms.

The lines that – like so many of us – you never managed to draw between work and life, work and play, work and home, friends and colleagues.

The line running vertically by your temple, that sometimes swelled when you demonstrated your passion for your job, showing how difficult it could be. Sometimes you even ‘crossed the line’ by crying, swearing, and shouting – all things we are not meant to do (as professionals) but sometimes wish we could (as human beings).

The line blurred by your voice; a musical amalgam of urban camp and native Welsh, set in a low tone.

Lines, lines and more lines hatching the spreadsheets that became your nest for part of each year, and in which you eventually netted and brought home the next year’s students.

The line of creative credit you extended to me every year, when providing the privilege of being invited to speak to the incoming students about art and writing. You always attended, always paid attention, and always commented with enthusiasm and encouragement.

The witty lines, rejoinders and touchés – ‘one-liners’ even – you delivered with brevity and understatement, revealing your deep artist’s intelligence, your experience and wisdom, your special courage to laugh at the pains of life, and even at the pain of life’s passing.”

Dr. Paul O'Kane, Senior Lecturer, Critical Studies, Fine Art Central Saint Martins

A memorial event for Lynn will be held on 21 June.