Mark Smith

Mark Smith, ‘Improvable’, 2019, ceramic installation, installation view: West Space, Collingwood Yards, 2020. Photography courtesy of Aaron Christopher Rees.

Improvements adapted its title from Mark Smith’s eleven hand-formed ceramic letters that spell out the word IMPROVABLE. For the past 15 years, Smith—who lives with a disability— has made art invested in the shared, yet singular, human condition of having a body. He is perhaps best known for his figurative soft sculptures, such as his life-sized reproduction of a newborn baby being born; or his small scale ceramics studies of women’s bodies. IMPROVABLE is an open-ended reflection on the conditions of its own production—not idealised by the artist, the work is slightly wonky, each letter balances precariously to stand. Although a departure from his figurative representations of the body, this work extends Smith’s ongoing interest in the variances and differences of being human.

Installation view of Westspace with two large segments of dyed cloth hanging from the ceiling and secured to the ground with a series of small boots. In the bottom right corner sit 10 small handcrafted metal letters that spell out 'Improvable'.
‘Improvements & Reproductions’, 2020, parallel group exhibitions curated by Amelia Wallin and Nicholas Tammens, installation view: West Space, Collingwood Yards, 2020. Photography by Aaron Christopher Rees.

Mark Smith works across painting, ceramics, mixed media, video and soft sculpture, his primarily figurative works are concerned with how the physicality of the body relates to human nature and the human condition. Smith considers the body a non-negotiable starting point for existence, using the vessel to explore the truly distinctive characteristics of being human. Working purely from feeling or emotion rather than a model or image, Smith’s works possess an intrinsic nature or indispensable quality that imbues them with a deep sense of character.