Sally Smart (1960) is one of Australia's significant contemporary artists with a practice that engages identity politics: ideas relating to the body; the home and history. Smart is recognised internationally for producing stunning, large-scale cut-out assemblage installations made from felt, canvas, silk- screened and everyday fabrics that she constructs with pins. Smart is a process-oriented artist, often presenting narratives that characteristically subvert gender hierarchies through deconstruction and reconstruction of historical events and political associations with the traditional activities of women. Her work identifies with the art practices of Cubism, Dada, and Surrealism, and reflects a long engagement with avant-garde modernist women artists such as Sonia Delaunay, Hannah Hoch, Lyubov Popova, and Sophie Taeuber, all exponents of work with performance, collage and textiles and a lineage of practice she shares.
Smart exhibits regularly throughout the world and in 2016 had three international exhibitions: The highly successful two person exhibition with Entang Wiharso Conversation: Endless Acts in Human History at the Galeri Nasional of Indonesia in Jakarta; her fourth solo exhibition The Choreography of Cutting with Postmasters Gallery in New York and the immersive The Exquisite Pirate installation commissioned by the Singapore Art Museum for their 20th anniversary exhibition Odyssey: Navigating Nameless Seas.
Smart's most recent work The Choreography of Cutting is a project re-framing the early 20th Century's avant-garde dance company the Ballets Russes, and their performative multi-disciplinary practice in experimental visual art forms, and their representation of the East intersecting with contemporary thought, evident in their choreography, costume and theatre design. Smart's recent assemblages and embroideries, created from digitally cutting up images of Ballets Russes costumes designed by visual artists of early modernism (Henri Matisse, Sonia Delaunay, Natalia Goncharova and Mikael Larionov). Smart's new work includes commissioning texts and puppet plays; cross cultural choreography and performance, with Javanese dance movement and re-interpretations of traditional Wayang Kulit. A century later, Smart sees contemporary parallels and is interested in issues of cross cultural influence and reciprocity, critically engaging her art practice to better understand the world.
Smart exhibited with Indonesian artist, Entang Wiharso in their two-person exhibition Conversation: Endless Acts in Human History at theGaleri Nasional Indonesia, in Jakarta (2016). This unique collaboration between two artists focused on Smart and Wiharso's work individually and in dialogue, and recognised the extraordinary synergies and cross cultural dialogues in their artistic practices. Conversation: Endless Acts in Human History engaged with dialogue and diplomacy as interconnected systems that are socially and culturally produced; therefore embedded in individuals, institutions and states.
Smart's commissioned work for the Singapore Art Museum (SAM) Odyssey: Navigating Nameless Seas was developed from her renowned series The Exquisite Pirate, 2005-2016, which has evolved as an idea through numerous iterations globally, and offers the woman pirate as a metaphor for contemporary global issues of personal and social identity, cultural instability, immigration and hybridity. An important recent work of Australian contemporary art, The Exquisite Pirate reflects on the symbolism of the ship and its relevance to postcolonial discourse and its implications to contemporary and historical Australia.
Smart's collage installations are applied directly to the gallery wall, working with a range of media including painted canvas and felt cut-outs, photographic elements, and printed fabric. The pins and joins that connect her work remain exposed to the viewer, emphasising the performative process Smart undergoes in the cutting, drawing, assembly and installation of her work. These complex collage installations with inventive methodologies and dynamic processes of moving and pinning, creating a dialogue that has contributed to expanding the boundaries of contemporary painting.
Smart's art practice reveals a longstanding engagement with theoretical debates about gender and identity within her additional theme of cutting, stitching, and rearranging. Exploring ideas relating to the body as a primary site of gendered experience and identity, Smart is situated within the wider context of artists today focused on the body as a metaphor for subconscious desires, anxieties, hopes and fears. Smart's references to traditional women's work methodologies of making, establish a layering of meaning, moreover, in which the organic and the domestic converge often with strange and surprising results.
Smart's work in The Choreography of Cutting differs from other manifestations of collage in twenty and twenty-first century art precisely because of movement. Her installations show a choreographic interest in dynamic space and group composition that emerges from her study of Rudolf Laban's geometries and Martha Graham's methods of dramatic assemblage, as well as her response to the disturbing qualities of a Pina Bausch scene. It is however through rhythm and the intensification of the corporeal in trace-forms, that Smart's cutting becomes a gestural performance derived from action. The convergence between movement, gesture and modernity has a significant historical lineage in both art and social life that is pertinent to a better understanding of Smart's collages.
- Rachel Fensham, 2015, Melbourne, Australia
Sally Smart's selected exhibitions include: The Choreography of Cutting Postmasters Gallery, New York (2016); Odyssey: Navigating Nameless Seas, Singapore Art Museum, Singapore(2016); Conversation: Endless Acts of Human History (with Entang Wiharso), Galeri Nasional Indonesia, Jakarta (2016); Sur Centro Norte Jacob Karpio Galeria, Bogota, Colombia (2016);
The Choreography of Cutting (The Pedagogical Puppet Projects), Now Australian Art, National Gallery of Australia, Canberra, Australia (2015); Six Degrees of Separation Galeri Canna, Jakarta (2015); The Choreography of Cutting, Purdy Hicks Gallery, London (2015); Dark Heart:The 2014 Adelaide Biennial of Australian Art, Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide (2014); Para-Real,
601 Artspace, New York, NY, USA, (2014); Negotiating This World - Contemporary Australian Art, National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne, Australia(2013); Time & Vision Bargehouse, Oxo Tower Wharf, South Bank, London (2012); The Pedagogical Puppet Contemporary Galleries, University of Connecticut, CT., USA (2012); Contemporary Australia: Women, Gallery of Modern Art (GOMA), Brisbane, Australia (2012); The Devil had a Daughter Monash University Museum of Art (MUMA), Melbourne (2011);Flaubert's Puppets Postmasters Gallery New York (2011);
No Name Station, Gertrude Contemporary (2012); Iberia Gallery, Beijing, China (2010);The Exquisite Pirate OV Gallery, Shanghai, China (2009);Zhongjian : Midway Contemporary artists from China and Australia, Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Xiamen (China Tour) (2009); The Exquisite Pirate Embassy of Australia, Washington, USA(2009);Maritime:Ships, Pirates and Disasters, Contemporary Art Galleries, University of Connecticut, USA(2008); Decoy Nest, Postmasters Gallery, New York (2008);
The Exquisite Pirate (China Sea) Amelia Johnson Contemporary, Hong Kong (2008);The Exquisite Pirate (Yawk, Yawk), Northern Territory Centre for Contemporary Art, Darwin, Australia (2007); New History,The Bertha and Karl Leubsdorf Art Gallery, Hunter College, New York (2007);The Exquisite Pirate (Large Craft) Kaliman Gallery, Sydney and Greenaway Art Gallery, Adelaide, Australia (2007-2008); Dangerous Waters Herbert F. Johnson Museum of Art, Cornell University, Ithaca, NY (2006);El Pirata Esquisito /Segunda Primer Mundo Jacob Karpio Galeria, San Jose, Costa Rica (2006);2006 Contemporary Commonwealth, The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, Australia (2006);The Exquisite Pirate Postmasters Gallery, New York (2006); The Exquisite Pirate Jogja Biennale, Yogyakarta, Indonesia (2005); Surface Charge, VCU Arts Anderson Gallery, Richmond Virginia, USA (2005); Architypes Charles H.Scott Gallery, Vancouver, Canada (International Tour Sydney, Tokyo 2004-2005);Fieldwork: Australian Art 1968 - 2002, The Ian Potter Centre: NGV Australia, Melbourne, Australia (2003);Arid Arcadia: Art of the Flinders Ranges, Art Gallery of South Australia (2002);Tales of the unexpected: Aspects of Contemporary Australian Art, National, Gallery of Australia, Canberra(2002);Shadow Farm, Monash Gallery of Art, Melbourne Wollongong City Gallery, Wollongong; Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane ; Bendigo Art Gallery, Bendigo (2001-03); Femmage, Galeria Baro Senna, Sao Paulo, Brazil (2001);Parameters Head, Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide (2001); Family Tree House, Project Space, Greenaway Art Gallery, Arco, Madrid Spain (2000);Re-emplace, Earl Lu Gallery Singapore (1999); Femmage Shadows and Symptoms, Fukuoka Art Museum, Fukuoka, Japan(1999) ;Pusan Biennale, Pusan, Korea (1999), andUnhomely, Sonje Museum of Contemporary Art Kyongju and Seoul, Korea(1998).
Selected Public and Private Collections: Australia
National Gallery of Australia (NGA), Canberra ;National Gallery of Victoria, Melbourne ;The Art Gallery of South Australia, Adelaide; Queensland Art Gallery IGallery of Modern Art (QAGOMA), Brisbane; University of Tasmania Collection, Hobart; Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA), Sydney; Geelong Art Gallery, Geelong; Latrobe Valley Regional Gallery, Morwell; The University of Melbourne Art Collection, Melbourne; Deakin University Art Collection, Melbourne; Artbank Collection, Sydney; Victorian College of the Arts Foundation Collection, Melbourne; City of St Kilda, St Kilda; Charles Sturt University, Wagga Wagga; Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane; The Vizard Foundation Melbourne; New Parliament House, Canberra; The Walter & Eliza Hall Institute, Melbourne; Queensland University of Technology, Brisbane; Bendigo Art Gallery, Bendigo; Banyule Art Collection, Victoria; Mornington Peninsula, Regional Gallery, Victoria; Benalla Art Gallery, Benalla; Shepparton Art Museum, Victoria; Wollongong City Gallery, Wollongong; Tarra Warra Museum of Art, Victoria; Museum of New and Old Art (MONA) Tasmania.
Chartwell Collection, Auckland Art Gallery, Toi o Tamaki, Auckland, New Zealand; Herbert F. Johnson Museum, Ithaca, NY, USA; Ballard Institute and Museum of Puppetry, Storrs, USA; The William Benton Museum of Art Connecticut's State Art Museum, USA; British Museum, London, UK; Deutsche Bank, Frankfurt, Germany; International Collage Center, Pennsylvania USA; Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa, New Zealand.