Drawn to the expressive nature of cinema, Hobart- based painter Nicola Smith uses film stills as a way to deconstruct the layers of an image. Initially inspired by the films of Buster Keaton and Jean-Louis Barrault, Smith erodes the details of memory and time through a process of obsessive repetition. Like the flickering visuals on a film reel, Smith’s images possess a tension that bristles in the moment between movement and abrupt stillness. “Painting and cinema have a strong affinity,” says Smith. “I try to emulate the movement of cinema with my brush.”
Since obtaining a bachelor of fine arts with honours from the University of Tasmania in 2009, Smith has consistently sought out opportunities to exhibit her work in local and nationally recognised galleries. George Adams, co-director of Galerie pompom in Sydney, reveals it was an easy decision to bring Smith into their stable of artists. “Nicola had her first solo exhibition with us at MOP Projects [pompom’s artist-run sister space] in 2004, and several more times at MOP following this, each time moving her practice to the next stage of development.” Hobart’s Bett Gallery also picked up on Smith’s potential in January 2014 when they placed her exhibition Dinner in Hospital alongside work by Imants Tillers.
Travel is a high priority for Smith and the experiences gained from several international residencies have fuelled her research into the cinematic image. During a recent visit to Canada, Smith spent time making work in Montreal. It was there she met Benoit Pilon, the director of the 2008 film The Necessities of Life, which she has referred to extensively. The result of this was a collection of watercolour images drawn from Pilon’s film. These became the subject of Smith’s exhibition Ce qu’il faut pour vivre /The Necessities of Life at Sydney’s Firstdraft Gallery in September 2014.
Currently working towards a solo exhibition at Galerie pompom in February 2015, Smith has momentarily left cinema behind to create a series of paintings that reference her own photographs of urban locales.
This article was originally published in Art Collector issue 71, JAN – MAR 2015.