Stalked: Lionel Smit, Artist

9 June 2015

I have long followed and admired the work of the extraordinarily talented South African artist, Lionel Smit, therefore, on his recent visit to London I simply had to stalk him! Lionel's following is enormous and his collectors travel from all over the world whenever he exhibits in London. Often his work will be a sell out even before the show opens.

I caught up with Lionel over a drink to find out what his latest show was about and his new venture into photography. 

Did you always know you wanted to be an artist and how did you break into this very competitive industry? 

My father is a sculptor, so I grew up in a home where creating things were the norm.
As a kid we would visit artists' studios, museums, galleries etc… It all just rubbed off on me and before I knew it I was brainwashed into doing it myself.

What is the story behind the beautiful girl that appears in all your work? 

It is based on a Cape Malay Girl I saw when first moving to Cape Town.
Through colonialism Malay people are a mixture of European, African and Malaysian people in one. 
It then became a fascination and something that inspired me.

I loved the fact that Cape Malay people were almost universal with a mixture of different identities. The girl then became several girls and they all have the same features and that is why one tends to think it is the same girl.

I utterly adore your new venture into photography, how does this connect to your sculptures and painting? 

I have always been interested in photography since a teenager and just took photos for fun but ended up  winning a national award for best press photo in high school.  Painting portraits you are always taking photoghraphs as reference and have models in the studio.

In this particular case I wanted  to explore the idea of almost seeing the paintings come alive and this is when 
I started making a film for an exhibition called “Obscura” were I would throw paint on my models and then film it.  

During the filming I started taking photos in the process and the photos where almost like a documentation or stills from the  film. This connected so well with the paintings and sculptures and evolved around the idea of combining abstraction with figurative work.
It broadened the conversation into a new medium of photography. The paint, texture, surface and obscuring the reality with painting as a medium on a three dimensional surface just all fused well.

Which other artists are you inspired by? 

Gerhard Richter, Lucian Freud, Francis Bacon, Andy Warhol, Walter Sickert….and the list goes on.

What five items can you not live without? 

Beer, Beer, Beer, Beer and Lager


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