From March–June 2020, Mark Smith undertook a residency at the ATW where he was joined by 2014 Artist in Residence Dell Stewart. Mark and Dell came together in artistic collaboration to create an artwork especially for the Tamworth Textile Triennial Tension[s] 2020.

The resulting Love mobile was created in the spirit of learning and working together, and celebrating the complications and tensions implicit in any relationship. The work tour Australia with the Tamworth Textile Triennial Tension[s] 2020 over the next three years.

Love mobile uses soft hand-stitched forms, oversized stuffed letters and sculptural fabric elements linked through a complex web of handmade ropes to represent connections, networks and relationships. Smith and Stewart were interested in the motif of the heart as a metaphor for the vast range of possibilities for showing love, from the sentimental to the unfathomably complex. The work takes the form of an oversized mobile; continually moving and changing, it embodies the role of chance in encounters, understandings and the formation of connections between people.

Love mobile was created during the Melbourne COVID-19 lockdown, and the collaboration took place online and in person. The work is a tribute to the vital support and care shown through the mundane daily acts of love, including those heightened by the pandemic: eye contact, conversation, sending a message, liking an image. This process gave Smith and Stewart an appreciation of connection and of being present, building on shared experiences and listening carefully for stronger relationships, to people and the community.

Working across painting, ceramics, mixed media, video and soft sculpture, Mark Smith’s primarily figurative works are concerned with how the physicality of the body relates to human nature and the human condition. Smith considers the body a nonnegotiable starting point for existence, using the primitive vessel to explore the truly distinctive characteristics of being human. Within this framework Smith addresses the experiences and complexities of the individual and of humanity as a whole, as well as examining the ‘language’ of a subtle movement or position. Working purely from feeling or emotion rather than a model or image, Smith’s works possess an intrinsic nature or indispensable quality that imbues them with a deep sense of character. Smith has been attending the Arts Project Australia studio since 2007, and had his first solo exhibition Words Are… at Jarmbi Gallery Upstairs, Upwey, Victoria. He has exhibited in multiple group exhibitions at Spring 1883, Robin Gibson Gallery, No Vacancy Gallery, c3 Contemporary and The Substation.

Dell Stewart was an ATW artist in residence in 2014 – you can read about her practice here.

Video produced by Australian Tapestry Workshop in collaboration with Tamworth Textile Triennial Tension[s] 2020.