“I see lots of parallels between fashion and religious sects.”
In a manner reminiscent of the gothic fantasy genre most associated with the work of the American film director Tim Burton, London based painter Anj Smith explores in her highly detailed small paintings the dark side of life in general and fashion in particular.
As she told the Independent on Sunday about her 2004 work Opus Dei Lite (see above) “Opus Dei Lite came about when I saw that the Weight Watchers breakfast was identical to the Opus Dei cult breakfast – dry rusks. I really like dark stuff like that.”
Nine years later, Smith, talking to the Huffington Post about her New York exhibition The Flowering of Phantoms explained the continuing motivation for her work stating “Very loosely speaking, the flowering 'phantoms' of the show's title relate to the way that language operates in a relentless process of evolution, with new meanings constantly springing from the death throes of their predecessors. The art historical context of painting now is dragged into this as much as any other language (a skull in a Dutch Golden age still-life now seems to signify McQueen rather than mortality. Not even that, thanks to the market rip-offs, perhaps the old sign for death has now just emptied out to solely indicate genericism). To me this process appears as a perfect reflection a current metaphysical state, where the ground underfoot feels marshy, with no stable structures are around to help us define our identity, or to quantify things.”
About her choice of medium, the Goldsmiths’ trained artist said “In terms of making an image, the process of painting is an odd choice in the context of our sleek technology -- it's clumsy, awkward and it compromises the image, and takes months! But for me, that's where its profundity lies. There is something gratuitous about it, pointless even, and yet painting's seductive power remains unabated -- which explains its survival. For these reasons, I think it brilliantly reflects a contemporary headspace now, and how it feels to negotiate basic aspects of existence now.”
With influences that range from Persian miniature painting via the Dutch Golden Age to high fashion Smith’s work integrates a high art aesthetic into the fashion of the high street.
As she told Forbes Magazine’s Grace Banks “When I look at the zeitgeist now I see that people are looking for authenticity. Fashion is not a frivolous or trivial thing, but actually, we are wearing the values of our time and they say a lot about how we construct our identity and a lot about our time. There’s a lot of really vacuous comment about fashion that doesn’t interest me but I will always be interested in the concept of change and transformation that it offers.”