Craig Smith: Nothing really matters, anyone can see
Artist talks about getting away from figures and his ego, instead ‘enjoying fiddling around with the abstract’
In the two years since his last solo exhibition at Gallery Kalashnikovv in Braamfontein, Craig Smith has moved his studio from Victoria Yards to his home in Melville, given up alcohol and cigarettes, and most notably instituted a change of medium and thematic focus in his work.
Smith’s previous show Battle Lines was predominantly made up of works that brought the movement and energy of boxing to the artist’s distinctive canvases. His new show, It’s Irrelevant, sees Smith using pencils, charcoal, graphite and spray paint to create work that moves into abstract, minutely detailed and textured territory.
“I went to the Origins Centre and looked at all that rock art and that ignited a big thing for me and so I think subliminally I’m almost trying to create a surface first,” says Smith.
Using stains created on the back of the canvas and working on unprimed canvases with drawing materials, Smith’s new works are driven by an interest in textures, something he remembers from his childhood. “I’ve always been completely taken by textures. Even as a kid I remember walking home from school and getting stuck staring at the bark on trees and stuff,” he says.
His last few shows have produced better sales and more freedom for the 58-year-old artist to rely less on his production design day job. “The art world is completely based on luck so I’ve stopped trying to place myself in its history or relevance. I’m working purely for me. Before I was struggling with trying to be a people-pleaser and now it’s like resetting everything to original factory settings. My natural setting is introvert and this is getting back to that.”
There is a lot going on in the new works. If you step back from them, as Smith does during their creation, you can see the emergence of recognisable figures – a dog, a Darth Vader looking image – but there’s also more space on these canvases. Smith says he will probably return to painting at some stage but for now, he is happy to “follow this vein a lot more. All of my work was working around figures but I like the abstract and I’m really enjoying fiddling around with it.”