MARTIN SMITH I am Fortunate and Bored
by Joseph Breikers, 2009
*sigh* Youth. That worrisome time of Sturm und Drang, of never ending winters…shoes heavy and sodden with the mire of cognitive dissonance.
Young males can be fucking idiots when they are in the company of other young males. In this greenhouse, away from any figures of authority to which they may be held accountable, a perverse ritual of one-upmanship is often played out.
Overseas and temporarily relieved of any homely character expectations, this ritualistic one-upmanship is often intensified and things happen which one may later have cause to regret or realise were in fact life threatening. I think advertising gurus and personal trainers alike call this Character-Building. A noble term indeed, but one which smacks of an indolent attempt to make civil a primal cocktail of boredom, angst and idiocy.
Smith’s diaristic texts in this new body of work are redolent of that same boredom, angst and idiocy. At times the tone is confessional, but I detect a hint of glee. Almost as if Smith(ie/y) is gasconading over his transoceanic extravagances. These incised words, whilst a ritualistic assault on the sensual photographic surface, appear as a kind of corporeal manifestation of a textual struggle between sincerity and parody.
Not only do these photographs function as Monuments to Martin’s (M)Transoceanic MisadventuresTM, they also serve as a performance documentation of sorts. Possibly most importantly, they are the by-product of a performance both aesthetic and idiosyncratic; a fetishised record of dirty deeds executed at below cost.
Nevertheless, whatever verbal diatribe I have assailed your starry orbs with, the work of Martin Smith(ie/y) is a divine plateau where the seemingly incongruous swing in pendulous symmetry….
Joseph Breikers is a Brisbane-based artist, curator and writer
MARTIN SMITH PRESS RELEASE
I am Fortunate and Bored at Ryan Renshaw Gallery, October 2009
It is with great pleasure that we announce the opening of Martin Smith’s exhibition ‘I am Fortunate and Bored’ at Ryan Renshaw Gallery.
Once again Martin Smith has created a body of work that poignantly delves into his own psyche. Employing his trademark hand-cut technique, Smith works are imbued with tinges of nostalgia inviting us to look not only into his past, but also our own. 'Photography captures the classic moments of our lives, like your first day at school, a birthday celebration, a holiday,' explains Martin 'but it doesn't capture those other parts of your life that, although in that particular moment perhaps seem unimportant, are sometimes much more significant in shaping us as human beings.'
Smith's stories provide a whimsical and highly personal account of his life. The lettering for his text is cut from of the photographic surface, scarring them and giving them what he readily admits is a kind of sculptural quality. These stories recall epochs past, his own recollections of adolescence and early adulthood that survive intact. They are convincingly curious and cruel revelations of love among the ballads of suburban melancholia. Text and image blur. Like rain on a windscreen, you need to focus on one or the other, and can’t see both at the same time.
'Each letter is hand cut from the printed photo, so there's only ever one made ... which goes against a lot of the mechanical easily reproducible aspects of photography.' The time it takes to meticulously carve a story, letter by letter, out of a photograph also disrupts the essence of photographic time. In Smith's works, the 'snap' of a camera is paired with this laborious technique. Perhaps to suggest that although photographs take an instant to make, they are only in the present for a moment, but they are also loaded with the past and the future.
The cut letters fall away to the bottom of the picture and are captured by the picture frame, sitting at the bottom of each image like fallen tears or perhaps half-remembered stories that become jumbled in the mind, played over and over again.
Martin Smith's artwork focuses on those small moments that glance into a life. Tending to gather photographs, as opposed to taking them, his works as a consequence offer wry observations rather than grand statements. The loss or absence inherent in photographic images, which are suggestive of another time and place, is echoed in the physical loss of the words cut into the surface of the works. One story is inscribed on another, just like one memory is laid upon another, or one version of a story embellishes another. The resulting works are replete with the same ambiguity, melancholy and richness as memory.
MARTIN SMITH SHORT TEXT
Martin Smith's artwork focuses on those small moments that glance into a life. Tending to gather photographs, as opposed to taking them, his works as a consequence offer wry observations rather than grand statements. The loss or absence inherent in photographic images, which are suggestive of another time and place, is echoed in the physical loss of the words cut into the surface of the works. One story is inscribed on another, just like one memory is laid upon another or one version of a story embellishes another. The resulting works are replete with the same ambiguity, melancholy and richness as memory.
MARTIN SMITH ART BRISBANE 2008 ARTICLE
by Seanna Van Helten
This weekend, the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre will be overrun with visual artists and art dealers for the ART BRISBANE2008 fair. SEANNA VAN HELTEN chats to one of the artists involved, photographer MARTIN SMITH.
You may have seen the advertisements wrapped around Brisbane buses, or the banners flying above South Bank, and wondered what on earth a visual art show is doing in the cavernous commercial halls of the Brisbane Convention & Exhibition Centre. Art 2008 is one of Australia’s largest art fairs and, for the first time ever, the event is heading north between stints in Melbourne and Sydney and camping out in Brisbane. On display will be works from over eighty galleries, offering both seasoned art collectors and the uninitiated art-lover the opportunity to view artists’ works in an enormous variety of styles, mediums, and content – everything from drawings to paintings, sculpture to new media installations.
Martin Smith is a Brisbane-based photographic artist who has shown his work in a number of galleries and international art fairs. Photography is the dominant medium in his practice of constructing “photographic assemblages,” exploring personal identity through the fusion of image, text, ritual, and film stills. “What I do is, I have the photograph and then I etch text into the photograph,” Smith explains. “Sometimes that text is a song lyric, and other times it’s a story from my youth or from my adulthood. Then I physically cut each letter out of the photo.” The stories, he explains, like the original photograph, act as a trigger of memory, time, and place.
Although Smith is represented at Art Brisbane by Ryan Renshaw Gallery, the fair also features two emerging and independent artist recognition programs, including one that offers ‘undiscovered’ artists or those not yet represented by a gallery the chance to display their wares. So what are the benefits for young artists in showing their work in an exhibition of such large commercial scale?
“I think a lot more people see the work,” answers Smith, “At a gallery, in some ways, you’re speaking to the converted. Because the average person might not necessarily go to a gallery on a Saturday, whereas they might go to this event where there are 60 or 70 [gallery’s] … But you also get to people who might go to a gallery like the Queensland Art Gallery once or twice a year, so it’s sending your work out to a broader audience.”
Smith is also frank in describing the way art fairs can benefit an audience of art admirers who are not necessarily collectors: “A very broad scope of art galleries will be there, so I think the public will be exposed to different styles.” Plus, he adds, the environment is far less intimidating than your average small commercial gallery. “If you are wanting to buy art, it’s the best way to do it because the gallery owners are all there and you can meet with them and have a chat…. It is much more relaxed. And, who knows, maybe next time they will go direct to the gallery?”
Smith also points out that an art fair highlights the diversity of the visual arts across styles and media (and price points), which means “hopefully there will be something for everyone’s tastes!”.
“There are very different levels in the art world, and neither one is better than the other,” he continues. “People want art to do different things for them. Some people want that real conversation with the work and the artist and the views that are being expressed. And then other people just want art to match their couch, which is fair enough!”