Lionel Smit: Destructure

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Everard Read London presents Destructure, a solo exhibition of sculpture and paintings by celebrated South African artist, Lionel Smit.

In this new body of work, Smit continues to explore themes of identity through portraiture on canvas and bronze sculptures. For the artist, the human face offers an endless source of study, and his work accentuates facial characteristics through bold swathes of colour and brush techniques, highly-textured bronzes, and vivid patinas.

Smit’s portraits reflect the mixed heritage of the Western Cape communities in which he lives and works and which have become central to his exploration of identity. The subjects in his portraits exude strength and dignity; some have a meditative quality while others evoke a sense of vulnerability conveyed by the sitter’s averted gaze or melancholy expression.

Smit’s work is defined by a profound and ongoing dialogue between painting and sculpture. He grew up in a world of sculpture, and his father’s sculpture studio played a central role in his childhood. ‘I started with clay – so that’s my reference point. … And that’s the way I approach painting. I approach it like sculpture, adding pieces until the image emerges.’

Smit began working in clay from a young age but later shifted his focus to painting, perhaps to claim his own artistic identity. When he returned to making sculpture several years ago, it was his painting that deeply informed his sculptural works. ‘I want the sculptures to mimic the paintings; I almost try to merge them in approach, [and] to translate paintings in a three-dimensional form. In my head, I see the pieces of clay as brush strokes. At one stage, while working on a sculpture, I found myself building the plaster of Paris with a brush because I liked to see the brushstrokes and the drips.’


Lionel Smit: Destructure runs at Everard Read London until June 8, 2019.

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