Lionel Smit: Fragmented at Rook and Raven Gallery
Lionel Smit’s new exhibition, Fragmented at Rook and Raven is a series of sculptural portraits that look dramatic, spotlighted within the gallery to emphasise the sense of theatre. Photographs belie their scale – the heads are mostly over life-sized, giving them an epic feel. They are reminiscent of museum artefacts, as if they are relics from a previous classical culture.
The heads are made of bronze and plaster – casts that betray expert modelling in clay, with a handmade aesthetic. They are very much about the surface texture and colour, with metallised and raw pigment marking each with individual patinas.
The pieces are partial, as if broken or found: fragmented as the exhibition title, chosen and abstracted with a well-judged artist’s eye.
Smit’s work is striking and beautiful, yet as portraiture the faces speak more of anonymity than individual insights. There seem to have been perhaps two models, as the faces are repeated in different variations, but we don’t get a psychological reveal as might be expected from contemporary art. This is sculpture that looks to technique, to the past, to the mid-20th century. There’s nothing intrinsically wrong with that, but the masks remain superficial and do not really suggest what might be underneath.
Currently with a painting in the BP Portrait Award exhibition at the National Portrait Gallery (until 15th September), Smit is clearly an artist with a strong sense of material, colour and shape. The portraits at Rook and Raven are expertly rendered, but as sculptures are strangely depopulated.
Photos: Luna Ingrassia
Lionel Smit: Fragmented is at Rook and Raven Gallery from 12th September until 4th October 2013. For further information visit the gallery’s website here.