John Smith

“John Smith’s films, videos and installations are the work of a master craftsman and a maestro of deception. As such, they offer multiple access points – thematic, formalist – whilst being irrefutably entertaining. Form and content are intrinsically bound together, puzzles to play with, to partially solve, as we are instructed not only in ways of seeing, but in an understanding of film predicated on demystifying its oft-masked means of construction.”

Ian White, from ‘Information: Suspect, Construction: Evident’, catalogue essay for John Smith retrospective at Oberhausen International Short Film Festival, 2002

John Smith was born in Walthamstow, London in 1952 and studied film at the Royal College of Art in the mid 1970s. Inspired in his formative years by conceptual art and structural film, but also fascinated by the immersive power of narrative and the spoken word, he has developed an extensive body of work that subverts the perceived boundaries between documentary and fiction, representation and abstraction. Often rooted in everyday life, his meticulously crafted films playfully explore and expose the language of cinema.

Since 1972 Smith has made over fifty film, video and installation works that have been shown in independent cinemas, art galleries and on television around the world and awarded prizes at many international film festivals. He received a Paul Hamlyn Foundation Award for Artists in 2011, and in 2013 he was the winner of Film London’s Jarman Award.

Smith’s solo exhibitions include Alma Zevi, Venice (2017), Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin (2017, 2015, 2013, 2012 and 2010); Kate MacGarry, London (2016); Wolverhampton Art Gallery (2016); Museum of Contemporary Art, Leipzig (2015); Centre d’Art Contemporain de Noisy-le-Sec, Paris (2014); The Gallery, Tyneside Cinema, Newcastle upon Tyne (2014); Figge von Rosen Gallery, Cologne (2013); Kestnergesellschaft, Hanover (2012); Turner Contemporary, Margate (2012); Weserburg Museum for Modern Art, Bremen (2012); Uppsala Art Museum, Sweden (2011); PEER Gallery, London (2011); Pallas Projects, Dublin (2011); Royal College of Art Galleries, London (2010); Sala Diaz Gallery, Texas (2010); Ikon Gallery, Birmingham (2006); Kunstmuseum Magdeburg (2005); Open Eye Gallery, Liverpool (2003) and Pearl Gallery, London (2003).

Major group shows include ‘Age of Terror: Art Since 9/11’, Imperial War Museum, London (2017); ‘Between Film and Photography’, FOMU Museum, Antwerp (2017); ‘After the Fact: Propaganda in the 21st Century’, Städtische Galerie im Lenbachhaus, Munich (2017); ‘Found’, Foundling Museum, London (2016); ‘Double Act: Art and Comedy’, MAC, Belfast (2016); ‘Invocable Reality’, Museu d’Art Contemporani de Barcelona (2014); ‘The Reluctant Narrator’, Berardo Museum, Lisbon (2014); ‘Constellations’, Tate Liverpool (2013-14); ‘Image Counter Image’, Haus der Kunst, Munich (2012); ‘Has The Film Already Started?’, Tate Britain (2011-12); Berlin Biennial (2010); ‘The Talent Show’, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis and MoMA PS1, New York (2010); Venice Biennale (2007); ‘A Century of Artists’ Film in Britain’, Tate Britain (2004); ‘Live in Your Head: Concept and Experiment in Britain 1965-75’, Whitechapel Gallery, London (2000) and ‘The British Art Show’, UK touring exhibition (1984).

Smith regularly presents his work in person and in recent years it has been profiled through retrospectives at film festivals in Oberhausen, Tampere, Leipzig, St. Petersburg, La Rochelle, Lussas, Mexico City, Uppsala, Cork, Sarajevo, Prizren, Munich, Regensburg, Stuttgart, Vilnius, Karlstad, Winterthur, Bristol, Hull and Glasgow.

John Smith lives and works in London. His work is held in numerous public collections including Tate Gallery; Arts Council England; Museum Sztuki, Lodz; FRAC Île de France, Paris; Kunstmuseum Magdeburg; Ella Fontanals-Cisneros, Miami; Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Ferens Art Gallery, Hull.

A 3 DVD box set of John Smith’s films and a monograph on his work are available from the LUX shop.


Works by John Smith


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