Local artist finds clarity in blurred lines

15 August 2017 - 12:02 By Tymon Smith
Craig Smith found painting boxers an antidote to static art.
Craig Smith found painting boxers an antidote to static art.
Image: Supplied

As we're looking at the canvasses he's prepared in his Lorentzville studio for a new show at Kalashnikov Gallery, artist Craig Smith says: "I've found a secret, which is that I work without my glasses so everything is kind of blurred. Through the blur I can see the contrasts in a way that I can't if I'm wearing them."

At 56, Smith is one of the older artists on the young, upstart Braamfontein gallery's roster, but he's not too worried - a self-taught painter, his work over the past decade has attracted positive attention from art lovers and buyers alike.

He began his career as a photographic assistant, before moving into production design for the advertising industry. Painting was a way of exploring a more personal form of expression away from the high-pressured world of working on commercial jobs for directors like Luc Besson.

He acknowledges that "being self-taught has given me a freedom and allowed me to find my own way, and that's why I needed to get my own studio, to let my technique progress and try to be a bit more thoughtful".

Smith previously "would push the paint around and try to find out what was in there", but his new show has a thematic focus and if there's an overarching concern it's to be found in the abstracted pictures of boxers.

Being self-taught has given me a freedom and allowed me to find my own way
Artist Craig Smith

Smith sees his interest in these figures as a result of a realisation that his work was "pretty static, so the boxing imagery allowed me to start bringing movement into the work".

"Also, I wanted to paint the boxers up so that they looked like characters in a mardi gras or one of those spring festivals in Europe, so I put the hoods on them and gave them oversized boxing gloves to give them a bit of irony.

"I think I have my tongue firmly in my cheek," he says.

Smith also sees this show as the result of working out a relationship with the medium that he first fell in love with on a visit to the Medici Gallery in Florence when he was 11.

• 'Battle Lines' is on at The Kalashnikov Gallery in Braamfontein from Thursday.

• This article was originally published in The Times.

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