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Vivian Cooper Smith: Actions for a Luminous World

2/27-39 Abercrombie St
Chippendale NSW 2008

Wednesday 19 August from 11am to 5pm



19 August - 13 September 2020

The artist would like to acknowledge the traditional custodians of the land on which this work was made and exhibited and pays his respects to elders past and present.

“It’s been a hard year that got harder. Dad was diagnosed, Australia started burning, then flooded before the entire world got sick. It all feels connected somehow, with the vulnerability and uncertainty I felt watching Dad die reflected in the anxiety I see all around me. The world we live in no longer feels safe and while this is not new for many it is for those who took it for granted. Our actions have always had consequences but now they are grotesquely visible and we must learn new ways to live.” 

Vivian Cooper Smith, April 2020 

In Actions for a Luminous World we see Vivian Cooper Smith embrace the processes and actions of drawing through photography. By harnessing the material qualities of phosphorescent paint, laser pointers and various two-dimensional and three-dimensional shapes he has created a suite of images that resonate with expression. We see gestural lines disrupted by subliminal geometric forms, ghostly membranes, painterly colour swashes and ephemeral organic shadows lingering over granular painted surfaces. While the experimentation with technique appears broad there is a deliberate move away from the representational image towards one that demonstrates a haptic engagement with material and the act of mark making. The artist is drawing our attention to the expressive and constructive aspects of photography while downplaying the need for an identifiable subject. 

The focus on action and gesture is emphasised further by the inclusion of a selection of intimate drawings comprised of vertically aligned pencil lines. Each stroke pulses with the varying pressure exerted by the artist’s hand culminating in images that ripple with movement. 

Throughout this body of work we can sense an artist in dialogue with his materials. An emphasis is placed on experimentation with the properties of phosphorescent paint which as a response to light emits a greenish glow—an action followed by a delayed reaction. By using this material to create all but one of these images Smith is suggesting that photography is not simply revealing the world but listening to it, collaborating with it. These gestural photographs and pencil drawings are more than one sided mark making or neutral documentation, they are a model for engagement with a world in crisis.

This exhibition is dedicated to the artist’s father Stephen Smith.

image: Vivian Cooper Smith, ACTION 4124 (RED SHADOW), 2020, digital C-type, 70 x 60 cm, edition of 3 + 1 AP

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