Drawings of West Coast of Scotland by CLAIRE CHRISTIE SADLER

Fruits of the Earth, Sculpture by MARTIN SMITH*

Until 16 October 2016

Martin Smith, sculptor, studied French and German at Queen’s College, Oxford. He taught himself German in early years before taking it up at school where he also studied Russian. He wrote his doctorate on Machiavelli and Rousseau, and has worked for many years as editor at the Voltaire Foundation in Oxford. He has always been fascinated and delighted by language, and therein lies the key to his metamorphosis from Academic to Sculptor - the teasing of language out of stone.

A love of Italy and the Mediterranean - evenings spent under olive trees supping simple wines and food - is core to the artist’s wellbeing. He is able to happily knit the intellect of Oxford with annual trips to Tuscany to source marble, and attend residencies at the Centro d’Arte Verrocchio in Casole d’Elsa to secure quiet, focussed time.

The words that Smith uses to describe his sculpture are ‘Fruits of the Earth’ - desire, flames, bubbling water, fountains…. His work is both ethereal and organic, talkative, sensual, abstracted, his subjects ranging from clouds, flames and wings, to seeds, buds and pods, that as in nature are often explicit in gender.

Carrara marble - white with grey ripples, bianco venatino macchiato di oro - white marble with small golden veins, agate alabaster that is milky in opacity - Smith lingers lovingly over both language and stone. His conversation with the stone is a process of exacting from its essence the image that he has in his mind’s eye. The stone, depending on the changing composition inherent in, say Rajasthan marble, will resist or comply, inspiring fresh thought and challenge. It is a shared dialogue.

At odds with the sensuality of his sculpture is a fully functioning studio in his Oxford garden. As you enter you are confronted with the reality of sculpting - the sheer physicality that stone demands - the detritus of stonemasonry - power tools, drills and grinders, face masks and thick white powdered marble that blankets every surface. And out of this, the butterfly emerges.

Text by Jenny Blyth 2016

  • Claire CHRISTIE SMITH see above