Lionel Smit: Prelude
Running presently at Everard Read London is Prelude, an exhibition of new paintings and bronze sculptures by Lionel Smit, one of South Africa’s most celebrated and recognisable artists.
The exhibition includes 10 large-scale oil paintings on linen and 10 new sculptures – from intimate works to a 1.3 m double portrait and a monumental mask approaching 2 metres in height.
In this new body of work, Smit gives form to his deep and abiding interest in classical painting and his many influences from art history – from leading lights of the High Renaissance period to Romanticism as expressed in the landscapes of Constable and Turner, as well as the realism, vivid hues and religious themes of the Pre-Raphaelites.
Smit’s portraits present as realistic renderings often with classical, triangular compositions, but here are set against painterly, abstract backgrounds. Inspired by painters of the Romantic period, Smit uses swathes of paint and colour, in some of the works, to evoke dream-like skies and landscapes. Looking to Romanticism was compelling for Smit at a time of uncertainty and anxiety, in fact, was a deliberate response to the preponderance of negative news that characterised 2020-21.
Several of the works in this exhibition draw on Biblical paintings which Smit saw as a young boy in books, in church and during his art studies. In Preventative Image, Smit’s figure shields her eyes as she looks to the earth, recalling for the artist, The Expulsion from the Garden of Eden. Smit’s Interrupted Shape series has at its core, a classical portrait seen throughout history while #3, in particular, evokes the seated Madonna, rendered in the colours and mark-making of Pop and Street art.
The exhibition includes Smit’s textured bronze sculptures which transmute his brushmarks into a three-dimensional form and draw inspiration from ancient ritual and mythology. Many of his bronze visages exude serenity and, with closed eyes and muddy-earth or ashen patinas, are reminiscent of death masks. Smit’s Mortal Form recalls Medusa with her tangled ribbons of hair, while his monumental Enswathed, with its embalmed physiognomy, continues the artist’s meditation on life and death in a time of plague and political turmoil.
Prelude marks Lionel Smit’s 13th solo exhibition with the Everard Read group and his third solo exhibition with Everard Read London.
December 20, 2021
December 13, 2021