Monday, May 15 2000


A double portrait of Stephen and Doreen Lawrence has been unveiled at a new gallery dedicated to Stephen Lawrence at the Woolwich Campus of the University of Greenwich. At an opening ceremony also attended by Spice Girl Mel B, Mrs Doreen Lawrence, who is a part-time student at the university, unveiled the painting, entitled ‘Mother and Child Reunion’. The work, by London artist Jennifer Lewis, features the faces of Stephen and his mother, Doreen, surrounded by richly textured patterns and colours. It will be on permanent display at the university as a memorial to Stephen.

Mrs Lawrence says: "The gallery is in memory of my son, Stephen, and it is in recognition of his short life. I see Stephen’s name as helping to provide hope and the opportunity that could unite all the races and cultures in our society. The works of Jennifer Lewis symbolise and encourage young artists to promote change. I was struck by the artist's sensitivity and her ability to use visual art to express her inner feelings on canvas. I am happy that Jennifer has decided to incorporate the colour orange in her work, as that has become a symbol in memory of Stephen."

Two striking features with a personal touch have been created within the gallery by designer Tunde Shoderu, who was introduced to the project by one of Stephen Lawrence’s closest friends, Elvin Oduro. The etched glass entrance sign to the gallery uses Stephen’s signature and Tunde has built a set of furniture in the shape of Stephen’s initials. An elegantly curved bar has a distinctive S shape and a long low bench is angled in the stylised shape of the letter L. Tunde says: "I suggested that the space should not be clinical or unfriendly; I wanted a gallery which did not rely on just the paintings themselves for colour."

The gallery was the initiative of Paul Stigant, Dean of the Woolwich Faculty at the University of Greenwich. He says: "Doreen was a student here at the University of Greenwich when Stephen was brutally murdered and I felt that it was right for the university to remember what had happened and also to honour Doreen and what she has achieved in the years that followed." The university went on to work in close partnership with Mrs Lawrence and a group of local people in order to establish the gallery, which will provide a showcase for the work of contemporary artists. It will also explore multiculturalism in the visual arts.

Kelly O’Reilly, arts administrator for the gallery says: "Both Stephen and Doreen Lawrence have become icons for our time, representing extremes of tragedy and hope, loss and achievement. Celebrating the memory of Stephen Lawrence and his love of the visual arts, the gallery also responds to the MacPherson Report and its message of zero tolerance to racism. We want to present art that pushes boundaries and which challenges rather than conforms. We hope to live up to the determination and courage of Doreen Lawrence who, with her husband Neville, instigated the ground-breaking enquiry."

Jennifer Lewis’s portrait of Stephen and Doreen, measures 4’6" x 2’6" and uses her favoured medium of acrylic on canvas, with the addition of gouache and gold leaf. Jennifer worked from her own photos of Doreen and some previously unpublished photos of Stephen from the Lawrence family album. "Doreen encouraged me to focus on Stephen’s favourite colour, orange, which had been chosen for the ribbon that many people wear in his memory and to campaign for justice," says Jennifer.

The new gallery opens with an exhibition of other paintings by Jennifer Lewis, entitled Life’s Rich Patterns. Using vivid colours, Jennifer, 34, draws on her Afro Caribbean roots and interest in ancient myths and customs to create large works of art which portray human figures in mystical worlds. The exhibition is the first of a changing programme in the Stephen Lawrence Gallery, which will stage six exhibitions a year and is open to the public until Saturday, July 15. Opening times are 2pm to 3pm weekdays and at other times by arrangement, please call 079711 250901 or 020 8331 8988 for group bookings. Visitors should come to the University of Greenwich, Woolwich University Campus, Island Site, Wellington Street, Woolwich, London, SE18.

Paul Stigant says: "The university wishes to thank Jennifer Lewis, Kelly O’Reilly and Tunde Shoderu who together had the vision for this gallery and who have put in an enormous amount of effort to make it happen. We would also like to thank Lesley Gaye, who built the fittings; Deborah Finlay of Rainmaker PR, who won sponsorship for the glass sign, Steve Sirkin of Tile Depot who supplied the ceramic flooring and Marks & Spencer who supported the launch."


For further information:
Caron Jones
Public Relations Unit
University of Greenwich

020 8331 8937 (phone) 
020 8331 8093 (fax)

University of Greenwich
Public Relations Unit

Maritime Greenwich Campus, 30 Park Row, London SE10 9LS

TELEPHONE: 020 8331 8092      FAX: 020 8331 8093