For artist Mark Smith creating art is inextricably linked to imagination, barrier-breaking, self-expression and understanding the human form. Working as an artist for the past fifteen years, Smith’s practice spans painting, drawing, printmaking, video, ceramics and digital art, further exhibiting in groups shows at Spring 1883, Robin Gibson Gallery, No Vacancy Gallery, c3 Contemporary and The Substation.
Today Smith is celebrating International Day of People with Disability; a United Nations sanctioned day that aims to increase public awareness and understanding of people with disability, as well as celebrate the achievements and contributions of people with disability.
Having attended the Arts Project Australia studio since 2007 (a studio and gallery that supports and advocates for artists with an intellectual disability), Smith now works from the studio four days per week and enjoys a marked place as a contemporary Australian artist. Aside from his numerous group exhibitions, he was recently included in Next Wave’s Telltale exhibition (2016) where he collaborated with artist ChiliPhilly and in 2014 held his first solo exhibition Words Are… at Jarmbi Gallery Upstairs in Upwey. In the same year he also self-published Alive, an auto-biographical reflection of his life. As well as his art and writing practice, Smith further attends a local Melbourne choir and participates in acting classes.
At the moment Smith’s artistic thoughts are engaged with capturing landscapes from afar. Yet his curiosities aren’t tied to typical picturesque portrayals; Smith is interested in the imperfections of nature. As he says, “The thing I like about landscapes and nature, things like mountains, bark or even leaves, is that they’re often not structurally or graphically correct.”
Yet it’s the human body that has remained at the core of Smith’s work for the last four years. With his practice revolving upon what he calls “the observably human”, Smith’s primarily figurative pieces are concerned with how the physicality of the body relates to human nature and the human condition. This is displayed mostly through ceramic works, which see human figures in erotic, curled and tangled positions. “I’m interested in human movement and the positions of being human,” he says “The sculptures I make are understandably human, but each human is moving differently to its own beat.”
In this way Smith considers the body a nonnegotiable starting point for existence, using the primitive vessel to explore the truly distinctive characteristics of being human. As Smith says, “It makes you think about what constitutes being human and why we’re all called human when we we’re all so variable and different.”
Working purely from feeling or emotion rather than a model or image, Smith’s practice is intrinsically linked with the invaluable act of creating. For Smith, creating is central to who he is; making art allows him not to simply express himself, but to explore various issues and to experience both individual and collective release. “When you’re using your imagination it’s easier to get around barriers,” says Smith. “When there aren’t so many rules and regulations, I actually feel like I can flourish.”