Archive for September 12th, 2010


Review: ‘How To Comfort Your Father’ by Martin Smith at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Richmond

Exhibition dates: 24th August – 18th September 2010


Martin Smith 'Enough' 2010


Martin Smith (Australian, b. 1971)



Following on from last year’s exhibition My Jesus Lets Me Rub His Belly that examined issues of place and faith when the artist was growing up, Martin Smith now presents a slice of poignant son father love at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Richmond. The combination of images and text create narratives on growing up, life, male bonding and mortality.

In Fix It Up (2010, below) the use of a circle of text on black (the circle of life) in this image paired with a dark photograph of moss covered twigs and branches is exemplary, the metaphor of the arborist chopping down a gum tree in the backyard as his father is waiting to be taken to hospital by ambulance with prostrate cancer, the last time he will be present in his house, incredibly moving. The use of blurred images, such as the central panel in the triptych Sydney (2010, below) adds emotional weight to the narratives, as though the stories told can only be fragmentary memories, as all memories are, of the events that have passed. The feeling of an excavation of the meaning of life and death is further enhanced by the incision of the letters into the photographs surface and the extrusion of the letters to form three-dimensional sculptural forms, as in the work Enough (2010, see photograph and detail below). The letters shape references the fungi on the tree behind, new life growing out of old, as though the words were being extruded out of the forest, archives of communal memory.

My favourite image in the exhibition didn’t have any words at all, not even piled as detritus at the bottom of the frame as many of Smith’s works do. It didn’t need them. The triptyph Untitled 1 (2010, below) is simple and eloquently beautiful and almost brought me to tears. When read in combination with the other works and their texts, the moss covered trees on the left become two wrinkled elbows, the image on the right the wandering mind and the image in the centre – for me, the feeling of life force as it flows in the darkness. As my yoga teacher says to me, “You must learn to navigate the dazzling darkness.”

This illumination of the mind, body, memory and spirit is what Smith’s work is all about. I adore it.

Dr Marcus Bunyan

Many thankx to Edwin and Sophie at Sophie Gannon Gallery for allowing me to publish the photographs in the posting. All photographs © and courtesy of the artist and Sophie Gannon Gallery. Please click on the photographs for a larger version of the image as it is important to read the text with the larger horizontal works (in some you can’t read the text, it is too small – apologies).


Martin Smith. 'Regards Dad' 2010


Martin Smith (Australian, b. 1971)
Regards Dad


Martin Smith. 'Enough' 2010 (detail)


Martin Smith (Australian, b. 1971)
Enough (detail)


Martin Smith. 'Fix it up' 2010


Martin Smith (Australian, b. 1971)
Fix it up


Martin Smith. 'Sydney' 2010


Martin Smith (Australian, b. 1971)


Martin Smith. 'Untitled 1' 2010


Martin Smith (Australian, b. 1971)
Untitled 1



Sophie Gannon Gallery
2, Albert Street, Richmond, Melbourne

Opening hours:
Tuesday – Saturday 11 – 5pm

Sophie Gannon Gallery website


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His art work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes Art Blart, a photographic archive and form of cultural memory, which posts mainly photography exhibitions from around the world. He holds a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne, a Master of Arts (Fine Art Photography) from RMIT University, and a Master of Art Curatorship from the University of Melbourne.

Marcus Bunyan black and white archive: ‘Orphans and small groups’ 1994-96 Part 2

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