Anj Smith's Drifting Habitations exhibition showcases her remarkable works on a universe of existentialism. The British painter's latest series of paintings invites viewers to dive deep into her interpretation of visual arts. Smith's touches are subtle and meticulous, her primary seduction tool being the use of colour to encourage viewers to look closer and give pause to details and meaning.
At the Hauser & Wirth, each of the paintings of various scales depicts water as a new visual element in her work in its various states, rising from the stillness of the canvas. Smith's paintings have an intimate appeal which attracts viewers to fully engage with them, and she believes that even her collectors discover new aspects within her oil paintings years after acquisition.
Many of her paintings depict a nude female figure peering out behind glasses and mesh panels. The first work of the series, Double Flowering of the Marsh Marigold, challenges the complexities of representing the female body. Smith notes that painting the female nude is a very big deal because it's so loaded, and she has taken on such a problematic subject and genre in painting for the first time. Her paintings invoke the Rorschach test, reminding viewers that perception can guide their understanding of the work.
Drifting Habitations also showcases Smith's unique use of philosophy to create her artwork. Her approach is primarily invested in the viewer's interpretation of the visual: "What is there? And then if there is anything, what is the nature of that thing? How do we perceive our realities?" Smith's paintings push back against the quick consumption of images, encouraging the viewer to linger and unpack the multiple layers of meaning.
Finally, the title of the exhibition, Drifting Habitations, references French semanticist Roland Barthes' definition of atopia, which is that which is difficult to pin down. Smith's artwork is an attempt to communicate the precocious value of connection even as it remains elusive, something that should be treasured.