Lionel Smit: “It has come to a point where sculpture directs my paintings, and my paintings direct my sculptures.“
Both your paintings and your statues concentrate on the human face and figure expression. What are the aesthetics that most intrigue you? What are the elements you use to grasp and convey so well the psychological aspects of your subjects?
I think what intrigues me most is conveying the idea of expression or emotion. I have been very influenced by figurative and portraiture work, which has always captured my attention. I feel like I convey these emotions by somehow tapping into something very unexplainable. Something that keeps recurring.
Do you find a common thread to your work? What would you like to be conveyed to the viewer of your work?
It sometimes varies. Some things are more conceptually thought out, and other pieces are channeled from an expressive point of view. They all have a common thread, which is tied into various ideas of a universal connection we all have and trying to avoid the idea of a very political South African viewpoint, and rather focus on a universal thread that can resonate with us all.
Has your country, in any way, influenced your art? If yes, in what ways do you feel it has?
Your environment effects you. Inevitably, tensions that occasionally occur, as well as the positive things that happen in my country, inspire my work. I have been very inspired by our Cape Malay community, which have African, European and Asian bloodlines – that there are commonalities in all of us. I feel that we all have a universal connection to this.
Picasso is quoted saying that “sculpture is the best comment that a painter can make on a painting”. What do you think of this statement? You work, as many painters have done, in both realms: how would you describe this continuing dialogue between these two art expressions?
I come from a sculpture background, with my father being a sculptor. At first, I established myself more as a painter. When I returned to sculpture, it became very evident that I had created an iconography that I wanted to translate into different mediums. It has come to a point where sculpture direct my paintings, and my paintings direct my sculptures. More recently, this has also translated into printmaking.
What do you think are the pillars contemporary figurative arts stand on? Which the positive aspects and which the negative ones?
I cannot say that there are positive or negative ones, but what I do know is that figurative art has prevailed throughout history, and will probably always stand as a very important part of the art world. I think the relationship with the human form will never escape us. Dating from the Venice of Willendorf and throughout the Renaissance, it is evident that the human figure will always be prominent. Almost like a reflection of us.
A living artist you think deserves to be more in the spotlight? Why?
It’s hard to say. Now, more than ever, the world is swarmed with amazingly talented people. Through social media, everyone has become more reachable to the world. I feel that every day I see artworks that should be recognized.
Next and upcoming projects?