Born 1952 - London, England
John Smith was born in London in 1952 and studied film at the Royal College of Art. 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. Known for their formal ingenuity, anarchic wit and oblique narratives, Smith’s meticulously crafted films rework and transform reality, playfully exploring and exposing 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 major 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. His solo exhibitions include Kate MacGarry, London (2016); Wolverhampton Art Gallery (2016); Museum of Contemporary Art, Leipzig (2015); Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin (2015, 2013, 2012 and 2010); 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) and Royal College of Art Galleries, London (2010. Major group shows include 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). John 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, Mexico City, Uppsala, Cork, Sarajevo, Regensburg, Stuttgart, Vilnius, Karlstad, Winterthur, Bristol, Hull and Glasgow.
John Smith lives and works in London. He teaches part-time at the University of East London where he is Professor of Fine Art. His work is held in numerous collections including Arts Council England, Tate Gallery, Ella Fontanals-Cisneros, Kunstmuseum Magdeburg, Wolverhampton Art Gallery and Ferens Art Gallery, Hull. His films are distributed by LUX, London, Video Data Bank, Chicago and Light Cone, Paris. He is represented by Tanya Leighton Gallery, Berlin.
"The films of John Smith conduct a serious investigation into the combination of sound and image, but with a sense of humour that reaches out beyond the traditional avant-garde audience. His films move between narrative and absurdity, constantly undermining the traditional relationship between the visual and the aural. By blurring the perceived boundaries of experimental film, fiction, and documentary, Smith never delivers what he has led the spectator to expect."
– Mark Webber, Leeds International Film Festival, 2000
“The films of John Smith are among the most widely seen and appreciated of the UK avant-garde. Rigorous in structure and highly crafted in making, they extend the logic of language to question the authority of the image and the word. Among the complex features of these films is perhaps an attempt to sidestep, in a knight’s move, Brecht’s critique of cinema, his 'fundamental reproach' that a film is 'the result of a production that took place in the absence of an audience'. In John Smith’s films, the spectator is a producer as well as a consumer of meaning, bound in to the process but simultaneously distanced from the ‘naturalness’ of the film dream.”
– A L Rees, 'Associations: John Smith and the Artists' Film in the UK', 2002
Available Titles by John Smith
|B & B||2005||Single Titles|
|The Black Tower||1987||Single Titles|
|Dad's Stick||2012||Single Titles|
|Dirty Pictures||2007||Single Titles|
|Flag Mountain||2010||Single Titles|
|Frozen War||2002||Single Titles|
|The Girl Chewing Gum||1976||Single Titles|
|The Kiss||1999||Single Titles|
|Lost Sound||2001||Single Titles|
|Museum Piece||2004||Single Titles|
|Six Years Later||2007||Single Titles|
|Slow Glass||1991||Single Titles|
|Hotel Diaries: John Smith||2005||Single Artist Compilations|
|John Smith: Program 1||2002||Single Artist Compilations|
|John Smith: Program 2||2002||Single Artist Compilations|
|Steve Hates Fish||2015||Single Titles|
|Throwing Stones||2004||Single Titles|
|unusual Red cardigan||2011||Single Titles|
|The Waste Land||1999||Single Titles|
|White Hole||2014||Single Titles|
|Worst Case Scenario||2003||Single Titles|