Lionel Smit in front of his sculpture at Union Square, NYC, 2016

Lionel Smit

South Africa 1982

Sculpture, Painting

Lionel Smit
Lionel Smit
South Africa
March 18, 2016
Jean is researcher and author for Widewalls.

Creating unordinary woman portraits, representational and abstract at the same time, Lionel Smit finds his inspiration in the residents of Cape Malay community. Guided by influences of Francis Bacon’s, Lucian Freud’s and Andy Warhol’s work, he combines gestural brushstrokes, splattered and dripping paint with patches of color applied on the heads of his subjects. Smit’s sculptures invoke many of the same feelings as their two-dimensional counterparts but the addition of depth, in its actuality, makes the images less foreboding and melancholy. The opaque softness of the paintings is replaced with highly detailed hatching, clay protrusions, and grooved surfaces. The layers of intense coloring are reproduced as physically perceivable textures in this medium.

Lionel Smit - Isolate, 2016
Lionel Smit – Isolate, 2016

South African Origins

Lionel Smit was born in Pretoria, South Africa in 1982, he started developing and exhibiting straight after art school at Pro Arte Alphen Park. As a son of renowned sculptor Anton Smit, Lionel has made his first artistic steps in his fathers’ studio, and by the age of twelve, he was already working in clay. Smit exhibits locally in South Africa where he is considered one of the countries youngest investment artists. Smit’s works have been exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London where it received the Viewer’s Choice Award, as well as selected as the “face” of the BP Portrait Award 2013 for all campaigns. He has also been honoured with a Ministerial Award from the Department of Culture for Visual Art. A highlight of his career has been the publication of one of his paintings on the cover of Christie’s Auction Catalogue.

Relationship between painting and sculpture is essential

Lionel Smit - Origins Broken Fragment Installation, 2015
Lionel Smit – Origins Broken Fragment Installation, 2015

Moving Limits of the Expression

Smit’s work is deeply permeated with the symbiotic relationship between painting and sculpture. Exploding from the canvas, the aggressively layered colors are a nice smack in the face, especially when juxtaposed with the extreme tenderness with which he treats the portraiture. A planned chaos ensues on the canvas, both swatting away and serving up real-life moments. The eyes of his subjects appear to tell a story which acts on the intellects of those in view. The viewer is often assuaged and provoked at the same time. His sculptures are made of bronze which reveals it to be suited material for his interventions on it. He creates them using one of the oldest known techniques – wax casting method.

Lionel Smit - Formation, 2015
Lionel Smit – Formation, 2015

Exploring African Identity

Lionel Smit’s art explores identity and ever-changing nature of South Africa’s social landscape. The dialogue between expressive and figurative in his work, reveals the understanding of identity in a context of the multi-cultural environment. The avant-garde approach to the medium has allowed him to constantly move the limits of his expression. Each of his works offers an insight into strong emotions of the faces, whether applied in paint or bronze. His inventive and physically engaging style enabled him to achieve success all over the world.

The artist is represented by Everard Read, South Africa and Rook and Raven, London, UK.

Lionel Smit lives and works in Cape Town, South Africa.

Featured image: Lionel Smit in front of his sculpture Morphous at Union Square, NYC, 2016
All images courtesy of the artist

YearExhibition TitleGallery/MuseumSolo/Group
2016New ReleaseEverard Read, JohannesburgSolo
2016MorphousUnion Square, New YorkSolo
2016Cape Town Art FairCape TownGroup
2016TraceRook & Raven, LondonSolo
2016Obscura 2Rook & Raven, LondonSolo
2015 Close - Perspective exhibitionEverard Read, JohannesburgGroup
2015Recurrence exhibitionM Contemporary, SydneyGroup
2015ObscuraEverard Read, Cape TownSolo
2015Art Central Art FairRook & Raven Gallery, Hong KongGroup
2015Accumulation of Disorder, installationIndependent Art Projects, MASS MoCA Campus, USAGroup
2015OriginsRook & Raven, LondonSolo
2014CumulusRook & Raven, LondonSolo
2014Art TaipeiThe Cat Street Gallery, TaiwanGroup
2014ContronymThe Cat Street Gallery, Hong KongSolo
2014MorphousCirca, JohannesburgSolo
2013IS SculptureIsArt, Tokara, StellenboschSolo
2013Metal Work Public sculptureStellenboschGroup
2013Strarta Art FairSaatchi Gallery, Rook & Raven, LondonSolo
2013BP Portrait Award ExhibitionViewer’s Choice Award , National Portrait Gallery, LondonGroup
2013Wonder Works ExhibitionThe Cat Street Gallery, Hong KongGroup
2013RagmentedRook & Raven, LondonGroup
2013Art Miami Fair, featured artist MiamiGroup
2013100 AccumulationEverard Read, JohannesburgSolo
2012Compendium34FineArt, Cape TownSolo
2012Jhb Art FairEverard ReadGroup
2012Accumulation of DisorderUniversity of Stellenbosch Gallery, StellenboschGroup
2012StrataRook and Raven, LondonSolo
2012Winter ExhibitionEverard Read, JohannesburgGroup
2012India Art FairRobert Bowman Gallery, IndiaGroup
201134FineArtArtMonaco ‘11, MonacoGroup
2011SurfaceArtspace, JohannesburgSolo
2011MOMACRoberta Moore Fine Art, EnglandGroup
2010We are not WitchesSaatchi Gallery, LondonGroup
2010Out of the OfficeKunstmuseum Bochum, GermanyGroup
2010Cynthia Reeves ProjectsArt Miami, USAGroup
2010Submerge,34FineArt, Cape TownSolo
2010WhoGrande Provence, FranschhoekGroup
2010Coolstuff34FineArt, Cape TownGroup
2009F.A.C.E.T.Charity Auction, Christie’s, LondonGroup
2009NuanceUCA Gallery, Cape TownGroup
2009RelateGrande Provence, FranschhoekSolo
2009PresenceOff The Wall Gallery, PaarlGroup
2009GesprekUniversity of Stellenbosch Gallery, StellenboschGroup
2009UntitledNorth-West University Gallery, PotchefstroomGroup
2009IdentityPlatform on 18th Gallery, PretoriaGroup
2009Group 0934Long Fine Art, Cape TownGroup
2008REFLECTIONSRust-en-Vrede, DurbanvilleGroup
2008Outskirts47 Market Street Artspace, GeorgeGroup
2008URBANEYEKyK Contemporary, PretoriaGroup
2008Twenty artists/twenty portraitsUCA Gallery, Cape TownGroup
2008Day DreamMagpie Gallery, CenturionGroup
2008Rendezvous - focus wearable artFada Art Gallery, JohannesburgGroup
2008Refl ect/refuelAssociation of Arts, PretoriaGroup
2007UntitledDawid Ras Gallery, JohannesburgGroup
2007UntitledAardklop, PotchefstroomGroup
2007ProjectCarol Lee Fine Art, JohannesburgGroup
2007St.SebastianAssociation of Arts, PretoriaGroup
2007fl esh/:scapeMagpie Gallery, CenturionGroup
2007UntitledAfriart Gallery, PretoriaGroup
2006Epidemic, Judge, HopeVoir Gallery, PretoriaSolo
200640 x 40KKNK Arts Festival, OudtshoornGroup
2006Turn the tableArtspace, JohannesburgGroup
2006InitialCarol Lee Fine Art, JohannesburgGroup
2006Physical selfGallery 88, SasolburgGroup
2005OppitafelArtspace, JohannesburgGroup
2005Group therapyCivic Gallery, SandtonGroup
2005UntitledWoolworths, JohannesburgGroup
2004UntitledAssociation of Arts, PretoriaGroup
2004SolitudeGordart Gallery, JohannesburgGroup
2004UntitledArt House, United KingdomGroup
2004PretoriaEverard Read Gallery, Cape TownGroup
2003In sightCarol Lee Fine Art, JohannesburgGroup
2003Mortem LifeVisual Arts Gallery, JohannesburgGroup
2003UntitledKKNK National Arts Festival, OudtshoornGroup
2003Spring of GiftsSoan Studio, LondonGroup
2003New SignaturesPretoria Art MuseumGroup
2003PPC sculpture CompetitionAssociation of Arts, PretoriaGroup
2002Twenty / Twenty Association of Arts, PretoriaGroup
2002FacetsCarol Lee Fine Art, JohannesburgGroup
2002ExtensionsBronze Age Foundry, Cape TownGroup
2002Arcadia 2: InfusionCarfax, JohannesburgGroup
2002MatriarchMinds I Gallery, PretoriaGroup
2002Three man show with Liam Lynch and Zander BlomMillennium Gallery, PretoriaGroup
2001ThingsCarol Lee Fine Art, JohannesburgGroup
2001Up and ComingSoan Studio, LondonGroup