Kiki Smith: Autumn
Kiki Smith (b. 1954, Nuremberg, Germany) is recognized for her prolific and wide-ranging multidisciplinary career spanning over four decades, which has addressed the social, cultural and spiritual aspects of human nature. Much of Smith’s work is inspired by her own perceptions of animals and the natural world as it changes through the seasons, blended with the imagery of folklore, mythology and mysticism. Kiki Smith: Autumn evokes this lyrical confluence between the earthly and the fantastic, which will be examined through a selection of small sculptures, etchings and prints created between 2014 and the present day.
While Smith’s earliest work focused on the female body, since the mid-1990s Smith has shifted her focus to the intersection between the human and natural worlds. This transition was spurred by a chance meeting with a scientist in 1994, who told her ‘how many mammals were projected to be extinct in the next 40 years. I thought I should rather pay attention to that.’ The works in this exhibition - representations of animals, plants and stars – are reminders of the fragility of our universe.
Smith’s interest in myths of creation is sustained in her depictions of animals, which often appear as allegorical figures, uniting the human and non-human natural world. Deer Mating (2018) evokes Smith’s ongoing fascination with gender and reproduction, while the print series Sorcery (Hours) (2019) alludes to historical interpretations of weather phenomena as influenced by witchcraft or magic. Sculpture is fundamental to Smith’s practice; a medium explored here in delicate bronze, silver and aluminum forms. Works such as Cloudburst (2017) or Osprey with Fish (2017) crystallise in permanent form the momentary beauty of an ecosystem in constant transition.
Printmaking is an equally vital facet of Smith’s work. When she began working with imagery of birds and other animals, Smith discovered the detailed, refined line available in etching, making an ideal medium to describe feathers or fur. The delicacy of the work is enhanced by the tactile quality of the translucent, often handmade paper Smith uses, as seen in the series of intaglio prints entitled Standing (2014). Throughout the exhibition, Smith explores our identity in relation to the natural world, imbuing each work with the quality of a dark fairy tale.
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