Martin Smith

In Martin Smith’s enigmatic works image and text contradict each other with subtle tension and pathos. Perfect children mock imperfect parents with wry slogans, family traumas and anecdotes are shared in casual, hand-written gestures, and those behemoths of the human condition – sex and death – are elegantly downsized into black and white print. These are exemplary, not definitive forms of Smith’s work, but each series suggests a fearless approach to communication and an open invitation to sit around the metaphorical camp-fire, ear cocked, eyes wide.

Childhood, that fundamental marker of identity, is when most of us receive our primary introduction to narrative: first the spoken word, then story books with pictures. Leaving behind this beloved form for the more demanding and yet imaginative realm of literature suggests loss as well as promise. It’s this sense of nostalgia and reconstitution along with the endless possibilities of narrative form that inspires Smith. By cutting and erasing surface pigments to create a subtext, or over-writing his images in a prosaic hand, Smith never undermines the visual grain of his work. The textual tone is as you like it: redolent with sincerity or playfully ironic.

Martin Smith’s art practice can best be suggested in a series of ‘titles’: photographer, prose-maker, stand up comedian and father. His work is held in a number of public collections including QAGOMA, MONA, Art Gallery of Western Australia, University of Western Australia and Edith Cowan University. With over a decade of exhibitions to his credit from Brisbane to New York and Hong Kong, Smith may be drawing on his immediate world but his visual language speaks to universal experience.

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