12
Sep
10

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

Exhibition dates: 24th August – 18th September 2010

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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, see photograph 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 triptyph ‘Sydney’ (2010, see photograph 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, see photograph 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.

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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).

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.

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Martin Smith
‘Regards Dad’
2010

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Martin Smith
‘Enough’ (detail)
2010

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Martin Smith
‘Enough’
2010

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Martin Smith
‘Fix it up’
2010

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Martin Smith
‘Sydney’
2010

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Martin Smith
‘Untitled 1’
2010

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Sophie Gannon Gallery
2, Albert Street, Richmond, Melbourne

Opening hours:
Tues – Saturday 11 – 5pm

Sophie Gannon Gallery website

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1 Response to “Review: ‘How To Comfort Your Father’ by Martin Smith at Sophie Gannon Gallery, Richmond”


  1. 1 CAngus
    September 12, 2010 at 1:25 pm

    Lovely images there. Thanks for the heads up too – I’ll be sure to visit the gallery when I’m on Church Street next 🙂


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Dr Marcus Bunyan

Dr Marcus Bunyan is an Australian artist and writer. His work explores the boundaries of identity and place. He writes the Art Blart blog which reviews exhibitions in Melbourne, Australia and posts exhibitions from around the world. He has a Dr of Philosophy from RMIT University, Melbourne and is currently studying a Master of Art Curatorship at The University of Melbourne.

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