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‘Taps aff’ at the top of Ben Nevis for ‘buzzing’ Dundee graduate’s Celtic-inspired painting stunt

Lewis Deeney hung his Celtic-inspired painting on the highest point of the UK's tallest mountain.

Lewis Deeney at the summit of Ben Nevis. Image: Supplied.
Lewis Deeney at the summit of Ben Nevis. Image: Supplied.

DJCAD graduate and full-time artist Lewis Deeney has always aspired to reach new heights.

So when it came to promoting his upcoming exhibition in Fife, he decided to go as high as he possibly could – taking one of his Celtic-inspired artworks to the top of Ben Nevis.

“It was quite tough,,” laughs the 29-year-old painter, whose geometric works combine ancient symbols with modern laser-cutting techniques and bright colours to create mind-bending visuals.

“But I wanted to try and draw attention to the exhibition,” he adds. “My legs were burning and stuff. But my friend was there to hype me up, and we had good fun.”

Upon reaching the summit of the 1,345m mountain, Lewis says he was “buzzing” to be able to say he had the “highest painting in the UK”.

“I had such a buzz when I got up,” he says. “I don’t know of anyone who’s done it before.”

Exhibition ‘fuses past and present’

The painting Lewis took up to the summit is one of several that he has created specifically for his upcoming show, The Sky Is Dreaming, which the experienced artist says will be his “best one yet”.

“You’re going to be stepping into the ancient past of Scotland, but in a very modern way,” Lewis explains. “You’re not going to see stone carvings; it all feels very modern and alive.”

Lewis Deeney places his painting at the summit of Ben Nevis. Image: Supplied.

His latest works have been inspired by Celtic stone carvings which Lewis has then redesigned with “modern, bright colours” and rearranged using a laser cutter – a process he perfected during his time at Duncan of Jordanstone College of Art and Design in Dundee.

“I really love geometry, but also abstract painting, and I went through art school trying to find a way to combine them both,” Lewis explains.

“I couldn’t quite figure a way how to do it. And then I eventually ended up making an abstract painting. It was mostly focused on colour and texture, but it wasn’t much of anything.

“Then I had the idea to put it through the bandsaw. I cut it into strips and I thought: ‘That’s cool, because I can start rearranging them’.”

Empty art college was painter’s dream

After cutting his paintings into squares, triangles and other basic shapes, Lewis “reached the limit of what the bandsaw could do” and turned his focus to the art college’s laser cutter.

This meant his could design complex geometric patterns digitally, and then send his designs to the laser cutter to be precisely sliced.

Ready for battle: Lewis is inspired by ancient Celtic symbols. Image: Supplied.

Then he pieced the paintings back together in a rearranged order, “like a jigsaw or mosaic”.

And once he found his signature style, Lewis was hooked. He recalls working in the cutting workshop at DJCAD in solitude during lockdown, and realising at the time he’d probably never again have such unlimited access to the laser cutter.

“I just fell in love with the process,” he says. “It seems to mirror how my mind works, it makes sense to me.

“During Covid, I made so many paintings, because I was just obsessed.”

Road trips to Highlands inspire Lewis

For Lewis, there’s a constant fascination between past and present which he thinks can be explored best through geometry.

He started off painting from “a very spiritual perspective” and examining symbols such as the Mandala.

Then when he began tracing his own family tree back to ancient Ireland, he became interested in Celtic symbols.

Lewis Deeney on the gruelling trek up Ben Nevis. Image: Supplied.

Now, he and his girlfriend regularly take their van up to the Highlands of Scotland to seek out inspiration for his designs.

“I love being up there, and going to see ancient sites like the standing stones,” he enthuses.

But he maintains that one of the most inspiring places he’s ever been is Dundee’s own Balgay hill.

“There’s such a variety of trees there, and I absolutely love how dark it can get when you’re walking around at night,” he smiles.

Since leaving university, Lewis has been working from his hometown of Dumbarton and sending his designs off to get cut at an outside facility.

The rain came down hard on the day of Lewis Deeney’s Munro expedition. Image: Supplied.

But he’s looking forward to returning to Courier Country for his Creative Scotland-funded exhibition at the Fire Station gallery in Dunfermline.

“It’s a really nice spot,” says Lewis of the gallery. “And I get on with curator Ian really well. I’m excited to get full steam ahead.”

The Sky Is Dreaming by Lewis Deeney will be showing at the Fire Station, Dunfermline, from July 5-28 2024. The exhibition is free to visit.