Phosphor on the Palms
Appropriately spanning the autumnal weeks either side of Halloween, Hauser & Wirth is exhibiting a new collection of haunting paintings by Anj Smith. They span a dizzying array of references and are incredibly detailed in their exquisite production. Darkly shadowed eyes of many protagonists hint at death, skulls heaped in pits underground or strung along like pearls do so even more overtly. There is an opiate fog to much of the imagery and various themes explored by Lewis Carroll appear amid piercing cold eyes looking back at the viewer through shattered sunglasses and hair adorned with dead flowers and fur. Monkeys are draped around necks like scarves and traditional boundaries are blurred and over lap in layers of allegory and texture.
Theses are fine, delicate works tackling disturbing scenes - portraits are also landscapes, landscapes become still life; precious controlled paint depicts tiny threads woven into the flesh of models and with some incongruously it is smeared on in such thicknesses as to be unsupportable by the tiny canvas.
Fauna and flora converse with gaunt expressions, symbolism floats in fantastical realism, in Night Life Galaxy, 2013 a gauze is suspended with holes of cactus, crystal and lightening, a fern and conch or snail shell - these are rich, baroque, hallucinogenic paintings and Smith is very much forging her own way with them. Very few deviate from a modest size of around 35 - 55cm high and yet their detail demands much greater attention from the viewer than some of the more immediate and arresting works shown by Hauser & Wirth.
More than twenty works are on display and the barrage of ideas and motifs is learnt as a language of sorts as the series is taken in and absorbed; Smith has worked on these paintings for three long years and they deserve to find an appreciative audience.
http://www.hauserwirth.com/exhibitions/2565/anj-smith-phosphor-on-the-palms/view/ until 21st November