Ben Smith

Threshold

4 May — 19 May 2017

Born 1977
Lives and works in Sydney

View profile

Threshold is the eagerly awaited exhibition by Ben Smith—his first at Nanda\Hobbs Contemporary. It is an exhibition that shines a powerful light on Smith's passionate discourse of the place of the figurative in paint. He delves into moments of personal reflection and ubiquitous, often amusing observations of the world we inhabit. In doing so, the artist questions all that we hold dear—the material and the ethereal. The paintings are a vision of a dreamlike state. Smith reminds us of the time when our subconscious rules our head, where mystery plays with reality—that time when we are truly ourselves.

Throughout the exhibition, Smith has blurred the lines of perception and reality.  For the realist painter, the truth in image making and the representation of reality is of paramount importance. It provides a platform to present the illusion of space and play out a moment in time—to tell a story or deliver a visual allegory to the audience.

Smith, a remarkable painter and accomplished in the realist manner, is pushing his practice in this exhibition towards abstraction. It is not that he has a burning desire to be an abstractionist. However, the creation of a picture plain that is in part, ambiguous in form and colour palette, allows for the existentialist ambitions of his subjects to play out.  Smith’s figures inhabit a world that is intriguing rather than literal. 

In Ascension Geodesic—Smith inverts Duchamp’s 1912 seminal Nude Descending a Staircase (No.2). Smith’s nude is walking up a curved staircase to an equally uncertain destination as Duchamp’s version. It is a painting that pervades a sensuousness and desire, enticing the viewer to walk further into the picture with the subject.

Contemporary modes of transport—cars, buses, vespas, and in a nod to another time, a horse—all meticulously rendered—hint at the modern efficiency that we can now indulge our restless search for meaning in life. The figure in Smith’s paintings metaphorically points us to the void that we as humans are both drawn to, and fearful of.  

For us, relationships and religion serve as signposts in our search of utopia. Yet, no matter how quickly we seek a destination, we are often confronted with making choices along the journey—resulting in an outcome as ambiguous and beautiful as the paintings in Threshold.  

Ralph Hobbs
May 2017

\ Exhibition featured works

Ben Smith

Ascension

2015 \ Oil on board \ 122x90cm

SOLD

Ben Smith

Ascension Geodesic

2016 \ Oil on board \ 120x80cm

SOLD

Ben Smith

Ascension II

2017 \ Oil on board \ 85x90cm

SOLD

Ben Smith

Beckoned

2017 \ Oil on board \ 96x70cm

SOLD

Ben Smith

Bridge and Echo

2017 \ Oil on board \ 110x91cm

Ben Smith

Escalator Mythology

2015 \ Oil on board \ 90x122cm

Ben Smith

Immersion

2017 \ Oil on board \ 122x126cm

SOLD

Ben Smith

Neonate

2017 \ Oil on board \ 42x32cm

SOLD

Ben Smith

Portal

2016 \ Oil on board \ 122x91cm

SOLD

Ben Smith

Portico

2017 \ Oil on board \ 122x84cm

Ben Smith

Terra Incognita

2017 \ Oil on board \ 122x168cm

SOLD

Ben Smith

The Natural Progression

2017 \ Oil on board \ 74x66cm

SOLD

Ben Smith

The Tour

2017 \ Oil on board \ 82x190cm

SOLD

Ben Smith

Threshold

2016 \ Oil on board \ 122x90cm

SOLD

Ben Smith

Transition

2017 \ Oil on board \ 84x122cm

SOLD

Ben Smith

Vapourise

2016 \ Oil on board \ 90x70cm

Ben Smith

\ Installation photo 1

Ben Smith

\ Installation photo 2

Ben Smith

\ Installation photo 3

Ben Smith

\ Installation photo 4

Ben Smith

\ Installation photo 5

Ben Smith

\ Installation photo 6

\ Other exhibitions

Katy Woodroffe

The Well

17 July — 28 July 2017

Raymond Young

Battle Lines

26 June — 11 July 2017

The Connor Brothers

All My Life I’ve Been a Liar and That’s the Truth

14 June — 23 June 2017

Contact Us

to find out more about Threshold.

Level 1 66 King Street Sydney, NSW 2000
Opening Hours
9am - 5pm Monday to Friday Or by appointment