This was the first thing that came to my mind when I was confronted with examples of Nick Smith’s art, so please try to imagine the following situation. Finally, you received a message. Your inbox is no longer empty. The dial-up Internet for nights now, connected you with this magical person that has been sending you lyrics of Shakespearean sonnets. Tonight he promised you an image. An image that will give you a glimpse into his desires. Your dial-up Internet connection, just to spite you, is slow. The image you received is pixelated and broken. It takes you a few seconds to realize what you are seeing. The first reaction is shocking, and you quickly turn off your computer and go to another room. You feel flustered and surprised. Later in the night, secretly, but still not quiet enough so that your cat doesn’t realize, you come back to the picture. You give it a second look and realize the romantic text is still there. Your secret peeping Tom is also happy. He has an image to see, and your romantic soul is provided with a feast of old, slightly racy, English rhyme.
Nick Smith investigates with his work the amount of information that is needed for the whole image to be recognized. How long does it take for the brain and your eye to realize what you are seeing and to make you blush a little? Let us face it; the fire in the cheek is not something that we all try to run away from. Returning to London’s Lawrence Alkin Gallery, this month, with new works inspired by erotic literature and images, Smith, for this occasion created 28 original artworks, including 10 suggestive nudes. The new works are a jump away from Smith’s extremely successful exhibition Psycolourgy, and focus mostly on the nude female figure, that is never shown in full but as a close –up or a cut out picture. His move to erotic art, Smith explains as an extension of the experimentation and creation of images with the use of Pantone color swatches. The color-chip designs, pixels within the photography and computer screens, all played an equal part to influence the shift of subject matter from classical paintings to erotic, slightly pornographic imagery. The days of the dial-up Internet, Smith refers to as a conceptual part that requires a second look from the viewer and brings to the front his interest in the investigation of the human form.
I love how the public is invited to Smith’s new exhibition Paramour. Everything has a sexual yet at the same time romantic tone. Nothing is dirty enough yet everything has a sexual undertone. The brown paper covers the view into the inside of the gallery, yet shows just the right amount, a small detail of the exhibited print that is showcasing a close up of female breasts. This suggests an atmosphere of a peeping Tom parlor; I can imagine the public slightly giggling while entering in. Even the poster for the exhibition has a feeling of a classy online escort Internet site. A nice pink letter, a definition of the exhibition title and the dates of the exhibition almost like a phone number you are tempted to call. Definition of the title Paramour is defined as describing a person with whom one engages in a romantic or sexual relationship with secretive or improper undertones… Maybe, your secret lover, this time, is a collection of prints and text.
Referencing both Shakespeare's Romeo and Juliet and Venus and Adonis, Smith’s work also references racy texts from DH Lawrence, John Cleland, EM Berens and Sarah Walters. Exploring love, lust, and love for the female form, the exhibition Paramour, brings the romance of the old masters to modern time and tells a story of illicit love through evocative imagery. This deeper layer of his images is very important for the artist since to him, the images on display convey the celebration of the human form. The artist acknowledges the erotic and the slightly pornographic nature of his work, but this should not be the point where your eye should stop. What hides is the text, lyrics from the above-mentioned writers, or sometimes, different words or phrases that describe a blowjob.
In the end, the erotic images in Nick Smith’s works come with a twist. They come with a strong undertone of artistic research into the nature and beauty of the human form and also aim to dip into the research concerning the perception and understanding of images. Furthering the exploration of the instantly recognizable images, explored in his previous exhibition portraying the works of old masters, the erotic images play with the familiarization of a subject rather than a specific image. Smith’s unique approach to erotic art creates images that both tingle the imagination and the brain cells. His erotic images cover both worlds, and that provides a small comfort if you feel a bit flustered by viewing them.
Editors’ Tip: Icons of Erotic Art
The book explores the images of erotic art and aims to take a fresh look of the art movement that often shocks and tingles the mind. With amazing examples that explore this dynamic world, the book present over 150 images and aims to distinguish between the merely titillating from the masterful examples. Covering the major art history periods, ancient, Renaissance, and Rococo paintings; treasures from India, Japan, and China; Impressionist and Modernist masterpieces; even caricature, cartoons, and Pop Art, the result is a mesmerizing exploration and display of artistic eroticism.
Featured images in slider: Nick Smith - Capulet's Orchard, Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare, 1597; Nick Smith - Three not so Graces; Nick Smith - Sluty, Shades of Lust / Flirty, Shades of Lust. All images via lawrencealkingallery. All images used for illustrative purposes only.