Rook & Raven presents the exhibition ‘Origins’, a site specific, multi – disciplinary exhibition of works by acclaimed South African artist Lionel Smit. This new body of work is primarily concerned with the origins of identity and genetics. The sculptural process – evident in Smit’s unique moulding technique – becomes as significant as the subject; the procedure itself challenging the way we create an understanding of identity through art.
In a process akin to Darwin’s natural selection, this exhibition has taken form from the artist’s evolving ideologies and perceptions of nature and mankind. Through the personal processes of his selected mediums, there runs a parallel theme of hybridisation of old-world techniques and subject matter with contemporary processes. Examined through the mediums of paint, work on paper and sculptural installation, each protagonist is cast or painted or drawn in a moment of apogee, when history is being made and visually captured. This installation is an accumulation of faces, of years of experimentation between sculpture and painting. The works range from large canvases splashed with various colours, charcoal drawings to bronze heads filling the space of the gallery floor. The range of faces becomes part of larger story that the artist conveys regarding the human condition.
The new installation consists of dozens of vivid cobalt blue heads, broken sculptural fragments cast in resin and fibreglass in the blue. Upon closer inspection, the viewer loses oneself within the seemingly volatile and abstracted surface, left to decipher moments of the artist’s bold and fractured mark making, indicative of his imposing painterly aesthetic. Ultimately, Smit’s work will take an aesthetic position, the abstract and minimalist qualities of both the bronze and the canvas taking precedence over the image itself. The gestural brushwork and patterns create a figurative palette that draws the viewer closer to inspect it, and provoke a discourse on the relevance of identity and our origins within contemporary society.
The artist was born in Pretoria, South Africa. He began exhibiting soon after graduating art school at Pro Arte Alphen Park, and now lives and works in Cape Town. Primarily a painter and sculptor, his works explore the deconstruction of the portrait – thus exposing the inner depths and workings of persona through his inimitable creative methodology. With his work centered heavily on identity, and realized through the formation of disparate layering and an overlapping of textures, Smit’s musing primarily captures that of the Cape Malay Community.
Smit’s work has been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London, where it was chosen to be the ‘face’ of the BP Portrait Award in 2013. Smit has exhibited in London, Hong Kong, Miami and South Africa. His work work can be found in numerous private and public international collections.
Lionel Smit: Origins – Rook & Raven – 1 May to 13 June 2015