Taking place as part of Photo 2022, ‘Ugly/Beautiful’ was a solo exhibition of photographic work by mixed-media artist Mark Smith; it presented a space for beauty and ugliness to coalesce. Exploring identity, difference and faith, the artworks aimed to express feelings of joy, yet, the viewer’s experience is more confronting, with imagery depicting digital collages of body parts lurching outwards from a black background, prompting feelings of disconnectedness, discomfort and unease.
“After my accident, I was told I’d never walk again. I proved them wrong. I consider limitations and barriers imposed on me as an invitation/motivation to fuel my determination to create and succeed. My works are ambiguous to the viewing public. However, my greater intention is to break down preconceived understandings of disability. My life’s experiences are definitely an inspiration for my artworks.” —Mark Smith, 2021
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. He considers the body a non-negotiable 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 examines the language of subtle movement. Working from a feeling or emotion rather than a model or image, his artwork has an intrinsic quality that is imbued with a deep sense of character.
Mark Smith has worked in the Arts Project Australia studio since 2003. He held his first solo show Words Are…Jarmbi at Gallery Upstairs in 2014, as well as featuring in group shows nationally including Spring1883, Gertrude Glasshouse, The Substation and West Space. In 2014, he self-published Alive: an autobiographical reflection of his life and in 2020 he undertook an artist residency at the Australian Tapestry Workshop. Public collections include the Monash University Museum of Art and Moreland City Council. His work is also held in national and international private and corporate collections.
This exhibition was generously supported by the Australian Decorative and Fine Arts Societies (ADFAS).