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 John Smith, Turner Contemporary


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Tuner Contemporary will be showing a newly commissioned video by internationally renowned artist John Smith, from 1-17June 2012. Since 1972 John Smith has made over 40 film, video and installation works that have been shown in cinemas, art galleries and on television around the world and been awarded major prizes at a number of international film festivals. Horizon is a study of the sea filmed over several months from the windows of Turner Contemporary and locations around Margate. Smith captures the seascape across seasons and in dramatically different weather conditions, using a variety of techniques to stress and contrast the abstract qualities of light, colour and movement. Through this process he creates a view of the sea that draws attention to the spectacular improbability of the natural world.

Victoria Pomery, Director of Turner Contemporary said, “This commission has given us a fantastic opportunity to work with John, an artist I have long admired. The film he has created for us is very particular to Margate. It makes us consider the incredible seascape that drew JMW Turner to the town and continues to be a powerful inspiration for artists today.” Horizon was commissioned by Turner Contemporary in partnership with Stour Valley Arts and South East Dance as part of Turning Point South East – RELAY.  Entry to the gallery and the commission is free. John Smith will be in conversation with Stuart Comer Curator of film at Tate Modern on Thursday 14 June at Turner Contemporary.

"The films of John Smith create a world from the ‘simple’ experiences of living, breathing and being a filmmaker or artist in a particular place and time. Smith's often humorous films produced over the last 30 years have inventively documented and probed his immediate surroundings, often not even moving much beyond the front door of his various abodes in a small area of East London. Nevertheless, it would be wrong to describe Smith's films as overly delicate, preciously insular or purely personal – assignations that the previous description might suggest – as his work sees within the minutiae of familiar surroundings a range of philosophical, aesthetic, technical and quotidian challenges and revelations that extend far beyond the realm of much other comparable cinema. In film after film, Smith explores the cracks within and the tribulations of the world he confronts everyday, taking a closer look at and often transforming (verbally, associatively, just by observing from a different angle) things like a pane of glass, the discolorations of a mouldy ceiling, a hospital water-tower, the archaeology of an ancient toilet, an old shepherd's proverb, or a work he was unhappy with some 20 odd years before. In the process, he makes us look more closely, not just at his films and the cinema generally, but our own surroundings, the everyday world that engulfs us but that we probably routinely dismiss as a suitable subject for contemplation, art and imagination."
From ‘On the Street where You Live: The Films of John Smith’ by Adrian Danks, Senses of Cinema, 2003

“The films of John Smith are among the most widely seen and appreciated of the UK avant-garde. Rigorous in structure and highly crafted in making, they extend the logic of language to question the authority of the image and the word. Among the complex features of these films is perhaps an attempt to sidestep, in a knight’s move, Brecht’s critique of cinema, his “fundamental reproach” that a film is “the result of a production that took place in the absence of an audience”. In John Smith’s films, the spectator is a producer as well as a consumer of meaning, bound in to the process but but simultaneously distanced from the ‘naturalness’ of the film dream.”

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