Reimagining old masters paintings into contemporary artworks is the centre around which Frans Smit’s creative process revolves. A hybrid of current and past art movements, give way to a new visual language, evident in his latest body of work.
Reaching into the past, Smit derives inspiration from 13th–17th century European portraits, biblical scenes and still life.
Composition and subject serve as a starting point for both paintings and fine art photography.
The latter of which is a continuation of his still life series ‘Debitum Naturae’, (The Debt of Nature) 2014. A visual analogy to the human condition, a symbol of both life and the inevitability of our own mortality.
Smit demonstrates his skill as a fine art photographer by invoking thoughts of still life paintings by old Dutch Masters. Emulating their use of dramatic lighting; dark backgrounds give way to luminescent floral arrangements. Also characteristic of this period are the extensive positive space where flowers and foliage take up much of the image, and are captured in great detail.
Smit blends seemingly contradictory materials and art forms as if to link contemporary artworks with old masters in their mutual pursuit to capture luminescence. Street artists are symbolically represented in the works with black painted spray cans that appear to be casually placed within the composition. A second reference is made with metallic spray paint that glisten on the dark background. A commentary on the recent shift of perceptions that graffiti artists like Banksy are makers of fine art, their works appearing in galleries and at auction in the past decade.
Smit’s photographs are an intersection of the past and present, paying homage to masters of old, and honouring practices of modern and contemporary creatives. The result is highly aesthetic and conceptually complex fine art photography
On canvas, the artist wields a wide range of contemporary mediums and practices that are carefully brought into balance with highly orthodox and classical approaches to painting. Famous and lesser known masterpieces by Rembrandt, John Singer Sargent, Van Eyck, Velazquez and others are given new life and meaning.
Realistically rendered segments reference the originating images and convey a sense of logical perspective. They serve as an anchor from which Smit experiments with graffiti, motion painting, abstraction and a variety of new modern materials including metallic and neon paints.
A classic example of Smit’s new visual language is “After Sargent lady in Blue’. The portrait by John Singer Sargent is easily recognised by; the composition and pose, by the prominent blue and silver satin gown worn by nobles of his century. It is rendered with loose brushstrokes, acknowledging the classical colour palette.
Blurred against the dark background are whispers of graffiti, faintly visible which harmonise against the dark brown background. Less subtle is the bright orange flat plane that appears to sit over and then drip off the curls of dark hair piled over a feminine ear and neckline. The figurative ear gives way to impasto abstraction of the facial features, a concept Smit has deeply explored for the last three years.
As a last transgressive action, heavy red pain is flicked across all layers binding each contradictory aspect together as a whole grounding the work.
Smit has masterfully created balance seen throughout his paintings and photography, in order to cohesively tell a new story from old.
The viewer is taken on a visual adventure back and forth through the passage of time by connecting visual and conceptual notions and practices from over 5 centuries with the present.
Smit currently works at his Studio in Woodstock, Cape Town as a full time artist.
Studio 101, 141 Albert rd, Woodstock, 7925
072 116 2545
Monday-Friday 9am – 7pm