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Introducing Prism zine: An interview with Lewis Campbell-Smith

Lewis has certainly been busy this lockdown, as he jokes in Prism’s inaugural issue about embodying its entire editorial team. Prism deserves high praise for its stirring celebration of the creative talents of Oxford’s LGBTQ+ community – from energetic paintings to rousing poetry, to Spotify links and cookie recipes. This zine caters to every creative impulse, and I was fortunate enough to speak with Lewis further about his motivations behind the publication.

As a fine art student at Oxford, what kind of art do you normally make?

My long-term practice revolves around ideas of the infinite, the scientific unknown, and the chaotic. This usually takes the form of abstract paintings and relief sculptures using raw pigment, marrying the aesthetics of the micro and the macro before presenting these works in quasi-religious ways.

However, that’s been put on hold at the minute, and now I’m working on a quite personal body of work concerning healing and trauma. I quite like this new, hopefully temporary, direction. It’s the kind of art you wish you didn’t have to make, and I really haven’t figured it out yet, but I guess that’s all part of the process.

Are there any artists in particular that you consider to be inspirations?

I think I am much more influenced by aesthetics than by particular artists. Since my practice is so erratic, I find it difficult to follow any particular artist or movement.

That said, due to pride month I have recently been fascinated by queer artists such as Gluck, Nan Goldin, and Kehinde Wiley. I came across them in my research into queer art and art history, and they’ve been really influential when generating ideas. I know I would like to explore queer themes in the future, and I am thinking of marring queer portraiture with the ‘Net. Art’ aesthetic as a potential avenue for exploring the digitisation of queer culture. Particularly before coming out, digital LGBTQ+ spaces were the only places I could interact with queer culture and due to quarantine, it has really come full circle so I can see this idea making its way into my art.

How has Pride in lockdown been for you?

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t a little bit disappointed. I’ve only been to one Pride, and that was years ago, so I was looking forward to celebrating in Oxford. However, I think that Pride being less of a typical party this year isn’t necessarily a bad thing. This year’s Pride Month coincided with the BLM movement, and attacks on trans rights in the UK. This has meant that a lot of the energy, and indeed pride, that Pride Month gathers has been directed into activism. During this month I have seen more activism, more petitions, and indeed more anger than before. The LGBTQ+ community needs to keep educating itself and fighting for its BAME and trans members. I just hope that this energy doesn’t die out.

Tell us a bit more about Prism – what would you say are its goals?

Prism was really envisioned just as a way to keep Oxford’s LGBTQ+ community together during lockdown. This was one of many ideas to celebrate the creativity of Oxford’s queer community and give individuals a platform to show their work.

Which individuals contribute to the zine?

Because the aim was just to make something nice for the community, I accepted contributions from anyone and everyone who wanted to send me something. I made sure not to filter submissions by theme, or my own personal tastes, so no one was excluded from contributing to this very much collaborative project. Because of this, the contents of each issue vary a lot, I got everything from cookie recipes to self-portraits.

The name ‘Prism’ is certainly striking, how did it come to you?

I was brainstorming for names that were synonymous with colour and I think my friend Claire suggested it. It seemed perfect as it was short, sweet, and a little bit queer.

What was your main drive for starting Prism?

Prism was very much the brainchild of OULGBTQ+ Society’s welfare and Entz team. While thinking of what kind of things to run during a digital term, our Social Sec introduced us to Goldfish, Keble’s ‘Quaranzine.’ From there I took the idea and really ran with it, doing everything else myself from then on. It became a bit of a passion project for me.

What do you anticipate for the zine’s future?

I can’t really say for sure at the minute. If I’m not already too busy in October, I’ll hopefully continue to improve it. I learnt a lot this term and there’s been a definite glow-up between issues 1-4. Maybe it’s my perfectionism but I really want to improve it as much as possible in Michaelmas. Some of my ideas include adding a proper contents page, improving my lay-ins, and making a font out of my own handwriting. I have a lot of ideas concerning Prism’s visual identity which I’m excited to explore further.

Lewis ends his most recent issue with an important message. He urges viewers to educate themselves on the issues currently being faced in the LGBTQ+ community. He powerfully states that ‘you cannot morally consume LGBTQ+ culture without actively supporting every part of the community’. Prism is empowering to those who contribute and those who view it; its visual display of interconnectedness in this current drought of contact should not be missed.

Find Lewis’ art on IG at @lewiscs.art and on his website. The zine can be found here and on Facebook.