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South African Art Exhibition at Artspace Fine Art Gallery Johannesburg

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MICHAEL SMITH   :    THE TEENAGER

Artspace fine art gallery . johannesburg

Opening: Thursday 20 September (to be opened by KAREN BEUKES - South African Ballet Theatre, Artistic Director)

During September and October, Artspace Fine Art Gallery in Fairland, Johannesburg presents a show of drawings and photographs by Michael Smith, entitled The Teenager. This show represents a body of work the artist has been concerned with for the last year.

The work on this show deals with the culture of beauty and self-denial that besets contemporary teenagers, particularly teenage girls. In particular, Smith's images deal with processes involved in eating disorders and excessive exercise. Smith has taught at various high schools around Johannesburg for almost ten years, and during that time has become interested in how the maintenance of beauty and striving for perfection manifest as extreme preoccupations in teenagers.

Smith's works reveal an interest in art historical precedents: Ad Reinhardt's so-called 'Black Paintings' of the 1950's were meant to be works of aesthetic finality, the end of painting, so to speak, by virtue of their absolute omission of imagery. Smith's works re-inject figurative elements into stark yet rich black matrices, as if catching glimpses of figures emerging from darkness. These figurative components are fragments of figures, hands, feet, backs of heads. Their gestures are ambivalent and suggestive: a series of hands in various positions could be tracing ballet movements, or they could be progressing towards a mouth; feet could be running on a treadmill or stepping onto a scale. Elsewhere, Smith picks up on the impulse towards dematerialization characteristic of both Byzantine art and Minimalism. In a series of drawings of smoke, and a related set of photographs, Smith endeavours to find an equivalent for bodies subjected to extreme deprivation. The wisps and plumes of smoke become like attitudes of bodies variously dancing or in agony. As one progresses through the exhibition, one is struck by the sense that the body of the teenager from the exhibition's title is disappearing, dissipating like smoke. The ephemerality of the smoke in these drawings and photographs strongly suggests the elusiveness of perfection and the impossibility of the ideal teenagers often compare themselves to.

Michael Smith is an artist, writer and teacher. He currently works as ArtThrob's Gauteng Editor, and teaches at a private school in Johannesburg. This is his first solo exhibition.

artspace fine art gallery.johannesburg
3 hetty ave, fairland
011 678 1206 (t)
0866 498551 (f)
082 651 4702 (teresa)
email : artspace@wol.co.za

gallery hours :
tue – fri 10h00 – 16h00
sat 10h00 – 14h00
closed sundays/mondays





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