“Death and destruction surround us as we go about our daily existence. Does this dialogue mask and undermine the source, or are we informed, galvanised and proactive?” Ivan Smith
A new survey of artworks by Ivan Smith articulates his ongoing concern with world events and the interface of cultural responses. What emerges is an examination of placement and meaning through a language of contextual interludes, irony and visual manipulation.
Prompted by a reaction to the conflict in Iraq, Penny Black is a series shifting the scale of the war into miniature images collected from the internet. Duplicated en masse using a repeating pattern, the images create a field of color derived from the minute detail. As our eye scans the surface of the pattern, the singular images emerge as the particular scene of carnage becomes perceivable. In Penny Black as with several works including Loss and Guns which interpolate repeating images into collected photographs from the media, Smith proposes the basis of a visual dialogue that is open to manipulation and ranges free from its initial source.
Maintaining his focus outward, the exhibition includes works which at casual glance centre on personal pictography, but poignantly expand Smith’s questioning of location and meaning imposed on subjects by the charge of placement. In Looking for Don Quixote III, a lone masked man is walking in a desolate Spanish village parodying the wanderings of Cervantes’ famous traveling character. Perhaps an attempt to draw romantic implications, the work shows an irreconcilable need for context to penetrate and reshape the figure, who is masked, like the dialogue within Smith’s more politically motivated works.
Similarly, On Reflection relentlessly asks how change of environment, repositioning of elements, day, time, people, colour etc. affect and define form. The work touches on self-portraiture formally, (the unchanging element within the series is Smith photographing his reflection in mirrors,) but ultimately underlines that a given relationship between subject and context is finite.
As a sculptor, Smith’s work is grounded in knowledge of spatial language, e.g. how space informs meaning, how receding and projecting forms create vital dialogue (both physical and psychological in terms of expectations and reconstructions). The manipulation of expectations, such as displacement of toys (Pink Pig, Porn Star) reveals the sculptural attitude applied through irony by displacement of forms and reorganisation of expected narrative. However thought-provoking, Smith’s artistic dialogue remains open, and directed at an interactive public. Even with works as ball-breaking as Cojones, in the which the artist feasts on bull's testicles, the question asked is: What are the parameters and where do you put yourself?