Lionel Smit was born in Pretoria,South Africa in 1982, he started developing and exhibiting straight after art school at Pro Art Alphen Park. He now lives and works in the Western Cape. He is best known for his contemporary portraiture executed through monumental canvasses and sculptures.
Smit exhibits locally in South Africa as well as Amsterdam,Germany,India,Miami,Monaco,London and Hong Kong.
Over the past 10 years he has established a substantial international following with collectors ranging from the Standars Chartered Bank to the Laurence Graff Art Collection.
One of Smit recent paintings was exhibited at the National Portrait Gallery in London, where it received the ''Viewer's Choice Award'' and was selected to be the 'face' of the BP Portrait Award 2013. He was recently honored with a Ministerial Award from the Department of Culture for Visual Art and a highlight of his career has been the publication of one of his paintings on the cover of Christie's Auction Catalogue
From a young age, Lionel Smit has moved between sculpture and painting. Having grown up with sculpture, the medium seemed at first the best outlet for his creativity. However, after a few years Smit enthusiasm for sculpture waned, and he dipped a tentative toe into the waters of paintings. Liking the feel, he dived in, transforming a space long-accustomed to the working of clay into a textured location of canvas and color.
Thus far as a painter of large-scale portraits, Smit has steadily strayed from figurative representation a few small paintings hang in a corner of his currents studio on Strand, Cape Town as a reminder of the days in which figure came first, but a quick glance into the rest of the substantial studio space is enough to confirm that surface is now Smit primary interest. Enormous canvases in various stages of completion fill the space. Great paths of color and fervent drips and splashes adorn every working surface. But what is most intriguing is that the canvases furthest from completion contain no figure at all.
This is because Smit portraits do not function in the traditional sense,intent on capturing an aspect (or,ideally,the essence) of the sitter's personality. Instead, Smit expressionism cast a veil over realism, the portrait still holding the residue of his performative practice. The face of the sitter provides, quite simply, a container for Smit's experimentation with color and stroke
Absorbed in Smith fascinating use of robust patinas, the viewers return full circle. As it is with Smit's paintings although they do indeed contain faces, the surface of the work complicates the conception of the figure. Smit has elaborately constructed and successfully achieved a tension between representation and texture in his paintings. His pre-occupation with surface and its nuance, as well as his unconventional approach to the medium, has allowed Smit to consistently translate this tension into bronze. The complexities and by association are ultimately the key to Smit's fruitful experimental treatment of traditional practices.
- Jacqueline Nurse