Martin Smith - In response to knowing when something is finished

Exhibition: 5 November to 6 December, 2008

Martin Smith

It is strange what we forget and what we remember, what runs and reruns in our minds and what vanishes as if it never occurred. Within everyday reflections we can read the impact that apparently inconsequential moments have on life; when one tentative glance turns into a love affair of 7 years, or an exchange of orphans results in surviving the holocaust. These are the 'scars' that etch our memory, that define who we are.

Martin Smith's artwork focuses on those small moments that glance into a life. In response to knowing when something is finished contains reflections on the lives of others, rather than Smith's earlier work, where his own subjectivity was central. He tends to gather photographs as opposed to taking them and as a consequence his works offer wry observations rather than grand statements. The loss or absence inherent in photographic images, which are suggestive of another time and place, is echoed in the physical loss of the words cut into the surface of the works. One story is inscribed on another, just like one memory is laid upon another or one version of a story embellishes another. The resulting works are replete with the same ambiguity, melancholy and richness as memory.

In these elegiac works Smith disrupts the authority of the photograph. The impetus to alter the surface of the works came from him feeling that the images weren't finished. They were like open-ended questions, which needed to be answered. The time it takes to meticulously carve a story, letter by letter, out of a photograph also disrupts the essence of photographic time. In Smith's works, the 'snap' of a camera is paired with this laborious technique. Perhaps to suggest that although photographs take an instant to make, they are only in the present for a moment, they are full of the past and the future.

This first exhibition of Martin Smith's work at Stills Gallery coincides with the release of the QCP monograph on his work Martin Smith photographs - in response to... which will be launched at the opening. Smith's works have been exhibited regularly both in Australia and overseas. In 2007 he was included in Primavera at the MCA Sydney. His works are held in the collections of Queensland Art Gallery, Monash City Gallery and Artbank.