With 21 paintings produced over a three-year period, Anj Smith’s latest exhibition as Hauser & Wirth London is her largest yet. It is also her most psychologically motivated and probing. An artist who seeks to celebrate the medium of painting, Smith (b1978) sees the figure as a device on which to hang her concerns and her explorations of social mores. Her paintings – deeply layered to create an intense colour and incredible luminosity – deal with issues of liminality, androgyny, language, art history and zoology, among many others. Monkeys frolic with shattered Ming vases; a cigarette butt is revered as equal to a Van Cleef jewel; deep, dark eyes stare out from hollow sockets.
Smith’s works collapse the genres of still life, landscape and portraiture, freely referencing those who have gone before her: from 17th-century Dutch vanitas painters to so-called outsider artists Richard Dadd and Adolf Wölfli. While acknowledging the importance of recognising where she is coming from and taking responsibility for her references, Smith is also at pains to make work that is of our time. The intricate detail, painted with single-hair brushes – stubble on a figure’s cheek, a moth hidden in the stonework, translucent veins beneath the skin – is like a reward system, whereby the viewer benefits from each further minute spent studying the work and experiences a different painting, depending on the perspective from which it is approached. Smith’s work can only be fully appreciated in the flesh and this is a valiant display well worth spending some time with.
Anj Smith: Phosphor on the Palms
Hauser & Wirth, South Gallery, London
22 September – 21 November 2015
Interview by ANNA McNAY
Filmed by MARTIN KENNEDY
Raw Vision – 25 Years of Art Brut
We all have private mythologies extracted from our experiences and interests. The extent to which these crossover into common mythologies depends on where we place ourselves, or are placed within society. If we were to assemble the characters in our minds the way Peter Blake did on the Beatles’ Sgt Pepper album cover, we would likely find a cast of the mighty, magnificent and mundane. It is worth bearing that in mind when walking around the brilliant, eclectic and occasionally overwhelming Raw Vision exhibition of Art Brut at Halle Saint Pierre.
Mad, Bad and Sad: Women and the Mind Doctors
Mad Bad and Sad: A History of Women and the Mind Doctors From 1800 to the Present, the Freud Museum has gathered together letters, portraits, sound recordings and various documents tracing 200 years of the history of women suffering from differing states of mental distress, many of which were swept under the umbrella of hysteria, but which now, once again, are seen as disparate pathologies.
Leonora Carrington: The Celtic Surrealist
This superb exhibition by the Irish Museum of Modern Art demonstrates how Carrington, with reference to her Irish background and Mexican surroundings, embraced the possibilities offered by an art that we are continually reimagining.
Nostalgic for the Future
We are at the Lisson Gallery, London, to see the group exhibition Nostalgic for the Future, shown earlier this year in Sao Paulo, Brazil. This newly configured exhibition displays works by 16 different artists, celebrating the multigenerational programme of the gallery, from the 1960s to the present day.
Fair is language: São Paulo Art Fair
I received an email from Miguel Benavides, a friend who runs Studio Trust. At the request of Studio International's Editor, he had just made a superb photo coverage of Frieze Art Fair New York. As coincidently, I was about to leave for the opening of SP-Arte, the S