Where and when
The exhibition Anj Smith. A Willow Grows Aslant the Brook, a major solo show in an Italian museum by the British painter Anj Smith (Kent, United Kingdom, 1978) hosts a selection of 12 works in which the artist’s interior landscapes, populated by skillfully painted faces, animals and other natural elements, interact with the extraordinary collection of ancient art of the Museo Stefano Bardini
Monday – Sunday
Following the monographic exhibitions dedicated to international artists, the rooms of the museum housing the collection of the Florentine antiquarian and connoisseur Stefano Bardini return to host a contemporary artist, Anj Smith, whose work seduces and hypnotizes the viewer.
Smith’s paintings, made with an expertise equal to that of a medieval miniaturist or a Flemish-Renaissance still life artist, are nothing short of old master traditions.
As a conceptual artist, my work is located in the viewer’s response, not just within layers of pigment. An important consideration for artists working now lies in resisting cultural somnambulation. Calcified conventions and simplified narratives that inhibit a furthering of knowledge, are phenomena to challenge
– Anj Smith
The refinement and elegance with which the representations are constructed seem to share the sense of fragility and transience of nature. Smith’s work is an extraordinary, topical response to the most classic vanitas, a reflection on the promiscuous but fascinating relationship between beauty and death, between fullness and emptiness, between pleasure and dissatisfaction. Her landscapes are inner fantasies from which hybrid and dreamlike creatures emerge. Smith’s figures, their faces and bodies, are almost themselves being transformed into landscapes. History of art is combined with fashion, scientific illustration with Gothic imaginary, and the iconic with the rhetoric of medieval and Renaissance symbolism and visual languages. The observer is invited to be patient and to look with curiosity to enter these wonderful Wunderkammers, to make a journey that is not only optical but also mental between iconographic repertoires and popular culture.
Like any great masterpiece of the past, Smith’s art has a radically counter-cultural approach. Firstly, in a current climate in which visual information is constantly disseminated for superficial and hasty consumption, the urge to slow down, reason and think is conceived by the artist as an antidote to soothe our troubled present.
Secondly, “the pause required to fully appreciate these works allows us to obtain much more than this much-needed respite from the background noise of our complex lives”, says the artist. Smith’s practice promotes and cultivates critical thinking that transcends aesthetic pleasure, and which has indisputable value. Therefore, it finds its rightful place in the city of Florence, a place where this exploration and re-evaluation of historical contexts is nothing new. Florence embodies a continuous re-evaluation and reworking of stories, a process of understanding that has ensured the continuation of its canon.
Every time I am in Florence, I perceive its irresistible and provocative magic and I feel inspired again to open new frontiers
– Anj Smith
Kent, United Kingdom 1978
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