In the studio with… Hew Locke

[Many thanks to Annie Paul for bringing this item to our attention.] Apollo Magazine interviews artist Hew Locke; read excerpts below. [‘Hew Locke: The Procession’ is at Tate Britain, London, until 22 January 2023. ‘In the Black Fantastic’ is at the Hayward Gallery, London, until 18 September 2022.] 

The sculptures of Hew Locke turn the symbols of state power – from coats of arms to naval vessels, public statues and royal portraits – into tools for examining the ways in which societies the world over have fashioned their identities, often under the shadow of colonialism. Born in Edinburgh in 1950, Locke spent his formative years in Guyana (his father was the celebrated Guyanese artist Donald Locke), before returning to the UK to complete his Master’s at the Royal College of Art, London. Major public commissions include ‘The Jurors’, installed in Runnymede in 2015 to commemorate the 800th anniversary of the sealing of the Magna Carta; a large-scale retrospective toured from Ikon Gallery in Birmingham to two museums in the United States in 2019. At present, Locke’s commission for Tate Britain, ‘The Procession’ – a vast carnivalesque group of more than 100 figures, kitted out in vivid costumes that incorporate everything from images of the Benin bronzes to William Blake’s gruesome depiction of a hanged slave – is on view at the gallery (until 22 January 2023); his work also features as part of ‘In the Black Fantastic’ , a group exhibition at the Hayward Gallery, London, curated by Ekow Eshun (until 18 September). 

[. . .] Do you keep relics from past projects in the studio – maquettes or models?

No, once a project is done, then it’s all stored somewhere else. My studio is dotted with small model boats – but they are all still waiting to become boat sculptures.

What’s the strangest object that you keep in your studio?

One object I keep that is particularly odd is a penny issued for the colony of Barbados, I think in the 18th century. It’s a beautiful thing. On one side there is an image of a pineapple and on the other side an image of a black man in profile – obviously, at that time, a slave. He’s wearing the three-feathered crown of the Prince of Wales. Underneath him are written the words ‘I serve’ in English, which translates back into the [German] motto of the Prince of Wales. So it’s sort of a joke – planters having a laugh at the expense of the slaves who are serving them. An interesting, but very unpleasant object at the same time.

Have you incorporated this into any of your works?

Yes. Quite often the imagery appears as plaques on boats. And it appears in the Hayward show, in a group of pieces called the Ambassadors. Four Black, equestrian figures, less than half life size, and on the back of one of their jackets is fixed a copy of the Barbados slave penny.

[. . .] Do you listen to music while you’re working?

Sometimes – but when I’m by myself it’s audiobooks that basically keep me going, that soothe my mind. At the moment, I’m listening to a series called the Shadows of Men by Abir Mukherjee – I find it quite problematic and messy on the topic of the British Raj in India, but it’s interesting. I’m constantly analysing who the audience for these books is and what it is that I’m being sold. [. . .]

For full interview, see

[Photo of Hew Locke by Hugo Glendinning. Courtesy Acme Archive. Photo above by Anna Arca © Hew Locke 2022: “Ambassador 1” (2021), Hew Locke]

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