Dimensions: 26.5 x 24 x 17″
Media: plywood, ink, acrylic paint
In his sculptural work, Puffer Fish, Smith touches on both content and technical ability in a piece that engages with globally dwindling marine life and Smith’s ability to render a three dimensional, circular work through numerous wooden components. By using black and white coloring, Smith engages with a sense of the past by bringing it into present visual culture, suggesting that impending species extinction is an issue that must be dealt with presently and promptly.
Shawn Smith’s work focuses on themes of labor, technology, and science, where each of his sculptural pieces depicts a species facing extinction through human influence. Smith believes that the increasing quantities of technology in our day-to-day lives has begun to set the standard for our inter-species relations, through which we often view animals in the light of a screen rather than in a natural environment. By pixelating his works, Smith both demands acknowledgement for the animals decreasing numbers and for viewers to question their relationship with technology. Smith’s works cannot be viewed accurately through images, but rather, must be seen in person to understand the craftsmanship required to construct them and their full range of depth and color. This interacts with his conceptualizations of ‘detachment’, where attachment to his work is contingent upon reality rather than technological encounters. Smith also draws on the idea of process within his oeuvre by playing with construction and deconstruction; each of his sculptural works are reduced to mere pixels, yet are made from individually hand-cut and dyed blocks. Consistent with his participation in Turner Carroll’s Science as Art exhibition, Smith casts himself in the role of ‘artist as alchemist’, drawing on precise measurements to render visual representations of dying species in a way that positions him as an artistic and mathematical creator.
by Keira Seidenberg, Art History/Gender Studies student, McGill University