Thursday, August 27, 2015

Painting and Sculpture Intertwined

“That’s the way I approach painting.
I approach it like sculpture,
adding pieces until the image emerges.”
Lionel Smit

Although studying at Pretoria’s Pro Arte School of Arts the South African artist Lionel Smit learned the majority of his craft at his father’s knee. As he told Style.No.Chaser “My father is a sculptor, and I grew up playing in his studio, which eventually lead to me making art work.”

Whilst Smit the elder helped his son hone his craft he also taught him the business side of the occupation by giving him a sketch book and a pencil with the expectation that he earn his pocket money.

As Smit the younger told Top Billing’s Jeannie D “My father taught me that you have to pave your own way even if it’s with art. So at the end of the day, when you are forced to do something like that that encourages you to produce good work cos you know you have to sell it.”

At the age of 12 the young Smit considered himself a sculptor but four years later after his parents divorced and Smit had inherited his father’s studio, he switched from sculpture to painting.

As he explained to Opulent Living “When I was starting out, a part of me was trying to run away from being ‘the sculptor, Anton Smit’s son’. I will always be connected to my father, but I really wanted to be my own person. That might be part of why I started going into painting more. It intrigued me and it was something that I could discover on my own, something that wasn’t part of my father’s world.”

As the younger Smit was forging his own identity the elder Smit was in the background, opening doors and introducing his son to influential collectors which culminated in his painting African Girl (see above) being included in the 2009 F.A.C.E.T., Charity Auction at Christie’s London auction house. The work was chosen to grace the cover of the auction catalogue and while Smit rubbed shoulders with the art world’s glitterati the painting sold for three times its reserve price.

But the siren song of his youth could not be denied and soon the younger Smit was following in is father’s footsteps making large bronze sculptures. He currently has two adjacent studios in Cape Town, one for his sculpture and the other for his painting.

About his sculpture Smit is reported as saying in the catalogue for his 2010 exhibition SubmergedI want the sculptures to mimic the paintings, I almost try to merge them in approach, [and] to translate paintings in a three dimensional form. Immediately 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 brush strokes and the drips.”

Smit’s latest exhibition Close | Perspective is currently on show at Johannesburg Everard Read Gallery until the 30th of September.

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